November/December 2021 Issue
October 25, 2021

5 Questions for Barbie Shaffer

Source: NYSUT United
barbie shaffer

5 Questions for Barbie Shaffer, Columbia-Greene Community College Faculty Association

1. Like many members, you’ve had a challenging time navigating the student loan system. Tell us about your experience.

As a first-generation college student, I remember being so excited when I had been accepted to the college I’d hope to attend and was told by a member of the financial aid team that, with my scholarship and loans, I would be able to make my tuition. I had no idea at the time, however, how much I would end up owing years later. When I did enter repayment and saw the total and expected monthly payments, with all of the interest that had accrued over the years, my heart nearly stopped.

Why had I not been better informed?

2. They certainly don’t make it easy. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has been under fire because it has rejected more than 98 percent of borrowers who have applied for the benefit. You signed up for NYSUT’s student loan debtworkshop. How did it help?

As someone who was aware of the appalling rate of rejection for PSLF, I came into the workshop worried that I would be told I made an error and I was unable to qualify for forgiveness. What I left with was a tremendous sense of relief! The workshop facilitators explained the requirements that needed to be met for a successful PSLF application. I was so happy to learn that I was on track for forgiveness.

3. What about follow-up?

After the workshop, I scheduled an individual counseling session with a member of the Cambridge team. The counselor, Todd Friedhaber, contacted me in less than 24 hours and provided me with a personalized Student Debt Solutions Action Plan. He also was able to confirm that I am on track to apply for PSLF. Even better, he advised me to switch repayment plans and I am now saving nearly $300 a month!

4. So you’re now on track for the PSLF program. How will this improve your financial outlook?

Thanks to NYSUT’s student debt workshop and the follow-up counseling session, I am certain that my PSLF application will be successful.

Further, simply by taking advantage of the services provided to us as members of NYSUT, I am saving thousands of dollars each year having switched repayment plans. If that is not an incentive for participating in this program, I don’t know what is.

5. Many people don’t realize higher education faculty and staff like yourself qualify for PSLF. What advice do you give them about PSLF and this union benefit?

I have gained so much from participating in this program. Not only am I in a better place financially, I’m also now confident that, after I make my last 20 payments, I will have a successful PSLF application. Just having that piece of mind is a tremendous gift. I would recommend that all NYSUT members take advantage of this union benefit!

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