Maier’s interest was piqued around 2007 when he saw a friend’s post on Facebook about a new program, called public service loan forgiveness. It seemed simple enough: the government would release public servants from their debt after a decade of payments. He applied.
It was quickly clear that the program was far from simple. “Nothing went smoothly at all,” Maier said. “It was very difficult to figure out anything.”
He first wondered if his job at a public university would definitely count as public service. His conversations with his student loan servicer left him no wiser. “They never say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No,'” he said. “They say, ‘Our processors will evaluate it.'”
Then, in 2012 — five years after the program was signed into law, the Education Department issued a so-called employer certification form, which borrowers fill out each year to confirm that their place of work is qualifying them for the eventual loan cancellation.
Maier’s did. Still, he mailed and emailed this form sometimes multiple times a year, to play it safe. Every confirmation he received, he filed away.
These are the public service loan forgiveness requirements. Often, if you don’t meet one of them, you can make changes so that you do.
- Your loans must be federal direct loans.
- Your employer must be a government organization at any level, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization or some other type of not-for-profit organization that provides public service.
- By the end, you need to have made 120 qualifying, on-time payments in an income-driven repayment plan or the standard repayment plan.
One year, he received a form that confirmed he’d made 87 payments. A year later, after 12 more payments, he received a form that said he’d only made 83 qualifying payments. “It didn’t seem possible,” he said. After multiple phone calls to his servicer, the record was finally corrected.
Though, another time, he lost four or five months of payments and wasn’t able to get them back. “I never got to the bottom of that one,” Maier said. “It just seemed like a program that was poorly managed.”