A career in public service could pay off for some federal student loan borrowers — a program with an upcoming deadline could help some D.C.-area workers apply to have their debt waived.
Borrowers who have worked in public service for a decade could have their entire student loan debt waived, according to the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB). But the deadline to apply for forgiveness is coming up on Oct. 31.
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“If you’ve worked for a nonprofit, federal, state and local government entity, or if you have served active duty in the military, we encourage you to take advantage of this program,” said Karima Woods, the commissioner of DISB. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser and DISB are working to help applicants with the application process through programming such as workshops and online informational materials.
The relief is thanks to a temporary waiver President Joe Biden added to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Waiver Program last fall. That waiver — which is geared toward borrowers who work in public service — adds credit for past payments on loans that wouldn’t otherwise qualify under the program.
That applies to loans such as the Federal Perkins Loan or Federal Family Education Loans.
The program forgives the remaining balance of a direct loan for qualifying borrowers while they are working full time for the government or for nonprofit employers.
D.C. ranks higher than most other cities for residents overleveraged by student debt, according to a WalletHub report in May. The report found that the median student debt in the District is $33,175, while the median income of bachelor’s degree holders is $71,842, making the ratio of student debt to income around 46%.
That number, however, doesn’t account for the some 40 million people nationwide who may have had their debt reduced or erased entirely under a forgiveness plan Biden announced in August.
“We think that this will have a grave impact on residents here in the District of being able to not only have debt forgiven, but also being able to use that extra money towards other goals, like purchasing a home, purchasing a car and investing in their child’s future,” Woods said.
In late August, the U.S. Department of Education announced it had approved more than $10 billion in student loan debt relief for over 175,000 public service workers in 10 months.
“When these loans are forgiven, it does have a dramatic impact on the lives of residents. We’ve been effective in helping a number of residents get their loans forgiven,” Woods said. “We hear back from them, [and] they share with us the impact that it will have on their family’s future.”
- People who worked full-time in federal, state or local government, or who served in the military or a nonprofit for 10 years.
- People who entered a qualifying repayment plan and made 120 monthly payments after Oct. 7, 2007.
The debt forgiveness is a temporary opportunity, and Woods encouraged eligible people to apply as soon as possible though the deadline is still a month away.
Those with debt who haven’t worked 10 years should still fill out the application, Woods said.
“Even if a borrower hasn’t reached the threshold of 10 years of service, by completing the waiver application, they may receive the total number of months of qualified service, and be much closer to achieving federal student loan cancellation,” Woods said. “So in other words, the waiver gives borrowers the opportunity to maximize their potential count toward loan forgiveness.”
Step-by-step help for applying and further details about qualifications are available online on DISB’s website.
What to do after applying
After filling out the application, borrowers have to wait for the Department of Education to get back to them about the status of their loans. But Woods said that doesn’t mean applicants have to sit idly.
“What we do encourage a number of borrowers to do is to reach out to their students loan servicer just to find out the status of their loan,” Woods said.
Questions or issues may arise after the applications are submitted which can be remedied by reaching out.