Loan forgiveness could get students out of the red
For students who dread the thought of paying back their student loans, hold your horses.
CNN Money reported that there is a loophole in the federal student loan program that many students may be unaware of. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was implemented to help lift the burden of high tuition costs for students in public service majors. Full-time employees of some nonprofit organizations qualify for the program.
"I think the biggest issue with the program is that it is not well advertised to those before they enter the field, and it really doesn't kick in until the individual has been out of school for about 10 years. And it is usually that first 10 years where people need the most help," said UCF associate professor Stephen Holmes.
Former students interested in the program must complete 10 years of loan repayment on time before they can determine if they are eligible for the debt-free program. The debt forgiven through the program is also tax free. Applicants must have also been employed in public service throughout the 10-year span.
"Politically, I believe it sounds good by rewarding these valued public servants who want to make their communities a better place, but students in college don't think about what will happen 10 to 15 years down the road," Holmes said.
The program encourages graduates to enter into public service positions such as teaching and firefighting. Although the positions are low-paying, they are important to society and necessary, so the program gives its recipients a break, according to CNN Money.
"A program of this magnitude should be advertised and posted throughout campus so students in these majors can be more aware and potentially benefit from it," said Shanara Smith, a junior sports and exercise science major.
Although the program's main campaign is to forgive loans, one professor has some precautionary advice to be wary of the stipulations of the program.
"Be prudent with debt, don't assume that because there is this somewhat vague promise of forgiveness that you can rack up as much debt as you want and somehow it will mysteriously go away," said Kenneth Adams, a professor in the College of Health & Public Affairs. "I think students should sit back and think a little bit carefully about school as an investment, not just in terms of career option. Try to get as much out of it."
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a guide to assist potential applicants and their employers through the application process for the program. The program was passed by Congress in 2007, so the first round of loan-borrowers for the debt forgiveness will begin in 2017.
The U.S. Department of Education cannot guarantee the future of the PSLF because it was created by Congress. Congress ultimately has the power to change or discontinue the program.
Bria Brown is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.