Guardian of the Socially Responsible: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
September 17, 2012

There is a large cohort of young people, with the desire to work in public service, who are behooved to put their socially responsible instincts on the back burner because of personal finance. We’ve all known them: hard working, inspired, planning to devote themselves to law or healthcare or education in an effort to do their part in making the world around us a better place to be. But a lot of them never get that far. A lot of them are so burdened down with student debt by the time they exit the higher education system that they can’t afford to pursue public service. Instead, they are compelled to direct their training toward higher paying careers. That is, until they discovered the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

After ten years employment, people who work in a myriad of areas of public service may be eligible to apply for loan forgiveness, including both the remaining principle and all accrued interest. To meet the requirements, individuals must be repaying a Federal Direct Loan and must occupy their full time public service position during each of the requisite 120 months of on-time compliance with their repayment plan.

This is a fantastic program for those committed to becoming public servants. It is one of several available options for individuals whose income level doesn’t match the soaring heights of their student loans. However, if you plan to work in public service, other plans in this category might not have as much to offer. Income-Based Repayment, for example, offers loan forgiveness after 25 years as opposed to the ten required for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

It’s also a great incentive for students to consider going into public service: the scope of fields that may qualify as public service under the program is obligingly broad. It includes any number of career choices that might not trippingly come to mind; working for the National Parks service, or in a public or school library, or in early childhood education, to name just a few. It also encompasses fields that require copious amounts of training, which tend to yield correspondingly high levels of debt, like medicine and law. With Public Service Loan Forgiveness, lawyers can afford to do legal advocacy work on behalf of low-income communities at nonprofit organizations. In fact, a number of non-profit opportunities are eligible for loan forgiveness under the program.

It is critical that students be well informed when it comes to loan repayment. They need to know about options like Public Service Loan Forgiveness before they are blindly assigned a repayment plan, which is what happens in a lot of cases. Students need organizations equipped to help them navigate the intricacies of debt management. The parameters of loan forgiveness for public servants are broad, but there is a plethora of requirements to be met, starting with making sure you get a Federal Direct Loan. These requirements are by no means unreachable but our future nurses and teachers and EMTs need to know what they are in order to meet them. So let’s start spreading the word.