The College Cost Reduction and Access Act offers a loan forgiveness program for those who work in public service. As I am strongly considering a career in public service when I graduate from law school I decided to do more research on the loan forgiveness program.
The details of how the program works are somewhat complicated but this fact sheet from Brooklyn Law School and this one from NASFAA give a good overview of the program. First, you need to consolidate your loans(private loans aren’t eligible) with a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan. Next you need to make payments for 10 years(120 payments) while employed in a public service job. The remaining debt then will be forgiven.
In order for this to work you need to be on the income-based repayment plan. Otherwise,under the standard repayment plan after 10 years the loan would be paid in full and there wouldn’t be any balance remaining to be forgiven. The income-based repayment plan limits your annual debt repayment to 15% of your discretionary income-adjusted gross income minus 150% of the poverty level. By my calculations this would result in $37,035.00 in payments for someone making $40,000 a year. Since I expect to have around $70,000 total in loans I would have about half my debt forgiven. Over the 10 years one’s income would most like rise though which would also increase the total of payments.
There are some drawbacks. If you don’t stay in public service for 10 years than you won’t receive any loan forgiveness and any interest that remains unpaid because of IBR payments is capitalized when the borrower leaves the program. You don’t have to be in public service to use the IBR program though and it forgives any remaining debt after 25 years. Another potential pitfall is that the amount of forgiven debt is treated as income in the year it is forgiven. This could result in a huge tax bill. They may address this issue but I’m not aware of any solutions yet.
All in all it is a good deal though and I’m worrying a little less about my huge student loan debt. Make sure you get all the relevant information if you wish to take advantage of this program.