Q&A: Student loan forgiveness fail

Dear Liz: You recently answered a question from someone who had defaulted on federal student loans. You mentioned ways to get out of default and qualify for income-driven repayment plans that could reduce her monthly payments. Couldn’t she also qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Answer: There are programs that are supposed to allow federal student loan balances to be forgiven after 10 years of payments for people in public service jobs and after 20 or 25 years for other borrowers. It’s questionable how much anyone should count on getting this relief, however.

Last year was the first time borrowers qualified for forgiveness under the 10-year public service program, which was enacted under President George W. Bush in 2007. The Department of Education has denied the vast majority of applicants their expected relief. Nearly 40,000 people had applied by Dec. 31 and fewer than 300 people have been approved, according to the Washington Post.

Critics say the U.S. Department of Education has set much more rigid standards for approval than anything Congress envisioned when creating the program. Many applicants also relied on erroneous advice given by the private companies that service federal student loans.

It’s possible that lawsuits, or Congress, will force the Education Department to forgive more of the debt. But if this is what can happen to people who have given a decade of their lives to public service, one has to wonder how much relief other borrowers can expect to get.

Liz Weston, certified financial planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.Distributed by No More Red Inc.

Related Posts