Student debt burdens tens of millions of people every year. If you are a government worker, and have been consistently paying your loans on time, you may be eligible for the public service loan forgiveness program.
This program was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 and allows not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans erased after 10 years of on-time payments.
Most people pursuing public service loan forgiveness discover at some point that they don’t qualify, for one technical reason or another. That may be because their loan type is ineligible or they’re not in the right repayment plan.
Just 206 applicants for the debt relief have been approved, according to recent Education Department data. More than 40,000 have applied.
As a result, you shouldn’t rely just on your lender for information on the program, advocates say. Here are some other helpful and reliable resources.
“I created the checklist because public service loan forgiveness is too complicated, forcing borrowers to pay attention to too many details,” Kantrowitz said.
His sheet breaks down all of the program’s requirements and lists common errors and examples of qualifying employers (most jobs in law enforcement or public education, for example).
The Education Department recently released a help tool for those seeking public service loan forgiveness.
The tool will assess whether you qualify and make it easier for you to fill out the employer certification form, which verifies that you’re working for a qualifying employer.
Keep in mind the tool doesn’t save your information between sessions, so have all of your paperwork handy when you begin. The Education Department says the process takes people around 10 minutes to complete.
Given that student loan servicers might not always provide borrowers the best information, it helps to review your options with a nonprofit such as The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, an organization that offers free advice and dispute resolution.
“To help us help the consumer, it’s important they send us as much info as possible, including what kind of loans they have, what payment plan they are in, what kind of employer they work for and the status of their loans,” said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling also certifies student loan counselors.
CNBC has interviewed some of the people who have successfully navigated the program and are now debt-free. You can read their tips here.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.