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Misconceptions about Student Loan Forgiveness

July 26, 2017

When students start college, they are probably more concerned about how they’re going to cover the cost of tuition and classes than how they’re going to pay off student loans down the line. One problem at a time, right?

Of course, there are also students that carefully consider the loans they take out, the schools they attend, and their intended profession, all in an effort to reduce the costs of their education as much as possible.

For some students, a major part of their plans for eliminating education debt includes qualifying for student loan forgiveness. The premise behind these programs often assumes that college graduates make payments on their loans for a specified amount of time until certain qualifications are met to erase the remainder of the debt. While these programs can be rewarding for the borrowers who are eligible, there are, however, many misconceptions and potential pitfalls associated with banking on student loan forgiveness that could end up costing graduates in the long run. Here are a few common misconceptions cleared up.

Misconception #1: Everyone is Eligible for Loan Forgiveness

Although there are several instances in which students may become eligible for student loan forgiveness programs, you should not automatically assume that this is a possibility for you. For starters, loan forgiveness programs (as well as loan discharge or cancellation) generally apply to specific loans, specific professions, and/or specific sets of circumstances, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Direct Loans, FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) Program Loans, and Perkins Loans may all qualify for forgiveness, discharge, or cancellation, but only in certain circumstances, such as:

  • Public service loan forgiveness
  • Teacher loan forgiveness
  • Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge
  • Total and permanent disability discharge
  • Discharge due to death
  • Closed school discharge
  • Unpaid refund discharge
  • False certification of student eligibility or unauthorized payment discharge
  • Borrower defense discharge
  • Discharge in bankruptcy

It’s important to understand that these reasons may not apply to every type of loan, and some of them apply to very specific sets of circumstances. For example, the borrower defense discharge specifically relates to students seeking loan forgiveness because a school they attended misled them or engaged in other misconduct or violation of applicable state laws. This clearly doesn’t apply to every student, every school, or every loan.

Furthermore, you have to fill out an application for loan forgiveness, discharge, or cancellation and receive approval. Until then, you must continue to make payments in good faith, unless you are able to defer payments or you are granted forbearance in the meantime, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

If you want to find out if you qualify for student loan forgiveness, you need to do some research. It’s a good idea to check with lenders, with your school, and with the U.S. Department of Education, or more specifically, the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Misconception #2: Public Service Professions Are Automatically Eligible

According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, “The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.” In addition, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program allows for forgiveness of Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans and cancellation of Federal Perkins Loans.

However, there are several criteria attached to these forms of forgiveness. Simply becoming a teacher, a government employee, an employee of a non-profit organization, or a member of the Peace Corps doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for student loan forgiveness.

For example, in order to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, teachers must work for five “complete and consecutive” years at a qualifying institution that serves low-income families, as well as meeting other criteria. Even so, teachers may only be eligible to receive forgiveness for a portion of loans, and this doesn’t include PLUS or private student loans.

Misconception #3: Once I’m Approved for Loan Forgiveness, It Can’t be Rescinded

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely uncommon for professionals that thought they were eligible for student loan forgiveness to find out they were wrong. According to a report issued by The New York Times, a legal filing by the U.S. Department of Education in March suggests that approvals issued by FedLoan, the administrator of the PSLF Program, may be subject to rescindment. This particular case has led to at least one lawsuit so far, but it’s not the only reason why graduates may find that forgiveness they were counting on is beyond reach.

As noted above, qualifying students must not only have the correct loan type to be eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF Program, but they must also meet criteria for qualifying employment and qualifying payments (and payment plans). After all that, borrowers still have to apply and continue to meet qualifications until such time as they’re approved. In other words, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, and a lot of ways to make mistakes that could make you ineligible for loan forgiveness.

Misconception #4: If I’m Not Eligible for Forgiveness, I’m Stuck Paying My Loans

This is partially true. If it turns out you’re not eligible for any form of forgiveness for your student loans, for whatever reason, you’re still responsible to repay the money you borrowed. Even filing for bankruptcy won’t automatically discharge student loan debt. Of course, when you’re in good shape financially and perfectly capable of paying loans, you will be required to do so. Unfortunately by the time that borrowers learn that they are no longer eligible for student loan forgiveness, they have often already accrued higher interest costs resulting from making smaller payments in the early stages of repayment.

The good news is that you have options to reduce your debt if loan forgiveness is not on the table. Once you have established a reliable income and credit history, you can, for example, explore the possibility of refinancing your student loans. This course of action gives you the opportunity to consolidate loans, reduce interest rates, and potentially reduce monthly and overall payments in the process. Whether you refinance your education debt or not, you can also cut down on the overall interest costs and time spent in repayment on your loans by making more than the minimum payments each month.

Even if you do everything you can to secure a path to loan forgiveness after a set number of years of faithful payments, you may at some point discover that forgiveness isn’t an option for you. Naturally, the earlier you can confirm your situation, the better. If you aren’t eligible for loan forgiveness, it’s best to explore other options early on so that you can save as much as possible through refinancing.

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2020-01-21
5 Things to Do Immediately After Graduation

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

If you’re in your senior year and preparing for graduation — congratulations! Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment.

 

But after the hat toss, you have to start worrying about things like finding a job. And, if you’re like most college students, you probably have student loan debt to manage, too. As you start preparing for graduation, here are five things you should do to handle your student loans.

 

1. Find Your Loan Details

You likely needed to take out several loans to pay for school. It’s common for graduates to have as many as 12 different student loans when they graduate from college. Worse, your loans can be sold and transferred to different servicers, making it difficult to keep track of your debt.

 

After you graduate, look up all of your student loans and figure out who your loan servicers are, what your monthly payment is, and your due dates.

 

Federal Student Loans

To find your federal loans, use the National Student Loan Data System. Just enter your Federal Student Aid ID and password and you can view all of the federal loans under your name. The site will list your loan servicer and loan balance. Once you have that information, you can go to the loan servicer’s website and create an account and start making payments.

 

Private Student Loans

For private loans, you can identify the different loans and lenders by looking up your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com, which allows you to get one free credit report per year. Your credit report will show what company currently manages your loan. When you find your loan servicer, you can contact the company directly to find out how to open an online account and make payments.

 

2. Create a Budget

Your student loan payments will likely eat up a significant part of your monthly income, especially when you’re just starting out in your career. To make sure you can afford the payments and your other living expenses, spend some time creating a monthly budget.

 

While you can use software like You Need a Budget (YNAB), you can also make a budget with just a simple pen and paper. List all of your monthly income, including earnings from your job and side gigs. Next, list all of your expenses, such as rent, utilities, internet service, student loan payments, car payments, and insurance.

 

Hopefully, your income exceeds your spending. If that’s not the case, you’ll have to look for areas to cut to give you some more breathing room in your monthly budget. Or, you can boost your income by freelancing or launching a side gig.

 

3. Sign Up for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

If your starting salary is too low, or if you can’t afford the payments on your federal student loans, consider signing up for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

 

There are four different IDR plans. While the specifics of each plan vary, the general concept is the same: the loan servicer extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. Depending on your income and family size, you can dramatically reduce your monthly bill. In fact, some people qualify for payments as low as $0.

 

After 20 to 25 years of making payments, the loan servicer will forgive your remaining loan balance. While the forgiven amount is taxable as income, IDR plan forgiveness can still help you save thousands.

 

You can apply for an IDR plan online.

 

4. Refinance Student Loans

If you have private student loans or a mix of both federal and private loans and want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, look into student loan refinancing. By working with a private lender to take out a loan for the amount of your existing debt, you could potentially lower your interest rate, helping you save money. Or, you could get a longer repayment term and reduce your monthly payments, making them more affordable.

 

How effective is student loan refinancing? The savings can be significant. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, the average graduate has $29,200 in student loan debt. If you had that much debt with a 10-year repayment term and a 6% interest rate, your monthly payment would be $324. By the end of your loan term, you’d pay a total of $38,902.

 

But if you refinanced your debt and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would drop to $296 per month. Over the course of your loan, you’d repay just $35,476. Refinancing your student loans would allow you to save over $3,400.

  chart showing the difference between refinances student loan and original loan

While there are some drawbacks to refinancing your education debt, refinancing can be a smart way to manage your loans. If you decide that student loan refinancing is right for you, use ELFI's Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to get an idea of what your repayment plan could look like. Prequalification is 100% online, free, and won’t affect your credit score*.

 

5. Sign Up for Automatic Payments

Managing your different loans and their various payment due dates can be overwhelming. But missing a payment can hurt your credit, and you could be subject to costly fees and penalties.

 

Signing up for automatic payments is a great way to ensure you never miss a payment and improve your credit history.

 

The Bottom Line

Your college graduation may feel far off, but it’ll be here before you know it. When it comes to preparing for graduation, developing a student loan repayment strategy is essential. By creating a plan now, you can ensure you’re ready to handle your student loan debt when your payments are due.

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

2020-01-17
This Week in Student Loans: January 17

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
House of representatives

House Democrats Overturn DeVos on Student Loan Forgiveness

This Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House voted to overturn regulations introduced by Education Secretary Betsy Devos that eliminate the "borrower defense" rules introduced by the Obama administration. Critics have said the new regulations make it more difficult to get student loan forgiveness if a college suddenly closes. Sources say that the move to overturn Devos' new regulations won't pass the GOP-controlled Senate, however – and Trump is likely to veto the bill even if it does.  

Source: USA Today

 

signing legislation

Could Elizabeth Warren Really Wipe Out $1 Trillion in Student Loans in a Single Stroke?

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren recently vowed to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans on her first day in office if elected president. Her plan was released just before Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate. While the ability to erase debt is typically a decision left to Congress, student loans may be a different story due to a loophole involving the "Higher Education Act" passed in 1965.  

Source: CBS News

 

can't pay student loans

Study: Barely Anyone is Paying Off Their Student Loans

A recent study revealed that very few people are making progress on paying off their student loans, along with shifting factors in the nation's rising student loan debt. The study found that 51 percent of students who took out loans from 2010-12 haven’t made any progress in paying them off. Additionally, it showed that while in the past higher enrollment and rising tuition costs were the main drivers in the rising debt, slow repayments and amassing interest have now become the primary drivers.  

Source: NY Daily News

 
IRS building

IRS Issues Tax Guidance On Discharged Student Loans

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance for some taxpayers who took out federal or private student loans and qualified to have their loans discharged. Typically, having loans discharged is treated as a taxable event, in which the forgiven amount is treated as income – but the tax break from the IRS allows the discharged amount to not be recognized as taxable income.

 

Source: Forbes

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

2020-01-10
This Week in Student Loans: January 10

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
Income-Driven Repayment Borrowers After Missed Deadlines to Recertify

Half of Income-Driven Repayment Borrowers Miss Recertification Deadlines

Over 8 million student loan borrowers use the Federal Income-Driven Repayment plan to help afford monthly payments. The plan can drop payments as low as $0 per month, depending on the borrower's income and family size. However, in order to stay in these plans, borrowers must recertify annually to avoid consequences such as increased payments, a larger loan balance, and potentially defaulting on the loans. ABC News reported that according to Department of Education data, more than half of borrowers miss the deadline to recertify.   While they will likely have to recertify annually, a new law is being put in place to allow borrowers to opt into automatic recertification. The article encourages borrowers with income-driven repayment plans to watch for the option to become available.  

Source: ABC News

 

Colorado weighs "get on your feet" bill to help in-state graduated with student loans

Colorado Weighs "Get On Your Feet" Bill to Assist College Graduates in State

New graduates of public colleges in Colorado may have more incentive to stay in-state following graduation due to a new bill in the works that could mandate the state to pay their student loan payments for two years. If passed, the "Get On Your Feet" bill will take effect for public college graduates who commit to staying in Colorado and enroll in an income-based repayment program.  

Source: Denver Post

 

college student panicking because of FAFSA rumors

Filling Out FAFSA Won't Get You Drafted, Experts Say

With tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran this week, a misinterpretation of the fine print within the FAFSA application led some college students to panic over the potential of being drafted. Despite the widespread social media panic, experts say that the federal form won't actually increase your chances of being drafted.  

Source: USA Today

 
student loan forgiveness tax implications

The Student Loan Forgiveness Tax Bomb

Forbes writer Robert Farrington published an article on January 6 highlighting the tax liabilities that borrowers who receive loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment plans will face. While it's not widely known, forgiven debt is treated as taxable income during the year that debt is forgiven through an income-based repayment plan. The article outlines the surprising amount that borrowers might pay in taxes when having their loans forgiven.

 

Source: Forbes

 
ELFI team celebrates $1 billion in refinanced student loans

ELFI Surpasses $1 Billion in Student Loan Refinancing

Education Loan Finance (ELFI), a division of SouthEast Bank, announced the successful funding of over $1 billion in student loan refinancing and consolidation loans. This funding has positively impacted over 14,500 graduates, parents, and cosigners since they began offering student loan refinance products in December of 2015. ELFI maintains an industry-leading “Excellent” 4.8/5 rating on Trustpilot.com and has been named one of NerdWallet's Best Student Loan Refi Companies for Customer Service for 2019.

 

Source: Education Loan Finance

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.