CTA & You

Student Loans

Getting debt relief is complicated and confusing - but help is on the way
Calculating your student loans, A golden piggy bank with a grad hat on a calculator with word loans over a distressed wood background

Do you have student loan debt that’s weighing you down? You’re one of many. According to Fidelity Investments, about 44 million Americans owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt — a debt category second only to home mortgages. And the number of people taking on such debt is expected to double by 2025.

Whether you’re a millennial, Gen Xer or baby boomer, the burden of student loan debt can manifest itself in increased stress and postponement of major life decisions such as marriage, starting a family or buying a home. You might also contribute less toward your retirement or even delay retirement.

The good news is that depending on your loan type, current teaching assignment and length of time teaching, you could be eligible for a loan cancellation or loan forgiveness for teaching in the public school system.

CTA has information and resources to help members with the three federal student loan forgiveness programs:

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness ProgramThe Teacher Loan
Cancellation Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Which allows you to reduce or eliminate your loan debt from several different types of loans. Applies to Direct and Stafford Loans Which allows you to reduce or eliminate your loan debt from Federal Perkin Loans.Which allows you to eliminate your loan debt balance and is available to people who enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs, including public education.

NEA Member Benefits’ Sean Mabey, who presents workshops on student loan debt at CTA conferences and for individual chapters, says that each person’s case is different.

“It’s highly personal,” says Mabey, adding that many people do not even know what kind of loan they have.

He tells members that after graduation, you should work with your loan servicer, such as FedLoan. The servicer can help determine, for example, how much may be eligible to participate in any of the Stafford or any Perkin loans

It gets complicated, he cautions. If your debt is high, a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program could be a good option for you, but it depends on other factors such as if you are married and file joint taxes, how many children you have, and new revisions to the tax code.

Mabey suggests that you use a loan servicer’s chat feature — versus the phone — because conversations are documented. Documentation is important when you ask such questions as “If I do what you are recommending, am I eligible for a Stafford loan forgiveness program? And if not, what should I do?”

These programs have varying eligibility requirements, and the rules, paperwork and documentation can be confusing. Fortunately, NEA Member Benefits (NEAMB) will soon unveil a solution to help you navigate through them; it will pull your data together, make projections about what forgiveness program is best for you, and facilitate the processing of paperwork.

“You’ll learn if a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is worth it,” Mabey says.

“NEAMB heard members’ requests for assistance and advice through this process,” Mabey says. “We want to help make it smoother and easier to understand.” Be sure to read the next issue of the Educator about the launch of the new NEAMB program.


Should I consolidate my loans?

This is one of the most-asked questions, and one you should consider carefully. Know that you may jeopardize your ability to apply for loan forgiveness programs if you consolidate, and you are not eligible for deferment or forbearance. Consolidation is a one-time deal, unlike, say, a mortgage where you can refinance. The advantages are that you may qualify for a lower fixed interest rate or lock in a rate instead of being subject to annual rate changes.

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