You can’t imagine how terrible student loan debt is until you are faced with the bill — for the next 20 years of your life. This was my predicament 5 years ago, after I graduated from pharmacy school with about $220,000 of student loan debt.
I know what you are thinking, “But Christa, that number is outrageous!” Trust me, I know! About $30,000 of my student loans was from undergrad and the rest from pharmacy school. I would love to tell you that I only took out the minimum amount of loans to get by, ate ramen for every meal, and delivered pizzas 8 days a week, but I didn’t. I lived like most college students do without much of a budget. I wasn’t really thinking about my future self having to pay it all back with interest.
The 18-year-old student loan decisions have serious consequences
There is a lack of education concerning student loan debt among colleges. As a student, you are not usually educated about the repercussions of getting yourself into massive student loan debt. You make shortsighted financial decisions that can adversely affect your life for years and years.
Some of the student loan debt is because you are giving “free money” to a bunch of stupid teenagers (I can say this because I was one!). Some of the debt is also because tuition costs have skyrocketed. For instance, the pharmacy school I attended now costs $33,990 a year. This equals $135,960 in tuition for pharmacy school! That doesn’t even include undergraduate costs or costs of living.
Many post-graduate/professional degrees require this significant student loan burden
Many graduate degrees cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. How can anyone possibly afford this? Many need significant student loans and financial aid. I took student loans out because they were necessary for my dream job as a pharmacist. After pharmacy school, I was told that I’d pay for the next 20 years. My student loans cost more than the mortgage on my house!
I’m not the only person in this situation. Some have gotten into debt from graduate school and others have gotten into major student loan debt from undergrad alone. Fortunately, in 2007, the government started the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
The PSLF program is for those working for the government or in the public service sector. If you find a job in one of these areas and make on-time, scheduled monthly payments for 10 years, your remaining loans will be forgiven. But there are some important caveats and rules to look out for.
Confusing, right? Trust me, it does seem complicated when you are first starting out. Some people will start to look into it, get stuck, and forget about it. Lucky for you, I’m here to help!
Fundamentals of the PSLF program
What type of job do I need?
Qualifying employment includes:
- Those who work for the government (ex- military, public libraries, police officers)
- Those who work for public service non-profit company with a tax exemption code of 501(c)(3)
Tip: You can call human resources or even check your companies website for their tax exemption code.
Which type of student loans qualify?
Federal loans that were received under the Federal Direct Loan Program.
If you have student loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program, you can consolidate them into the Direct Loan program in order for those loans to be eligible.
Note: Private student loans are not eligible.
What repayment programs do I need to be on?
- Income Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
- Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
- 10-year repayment plan (this is kind of silly since you would have nothing to forgive after 10 years)
What qualifies as an on-time, scheduled monthly payment?
In order to be on-time, the payment must be made no later than 15 days after the due date.
For the payments to count, scheduled monthly payments should be in active repayment status. You can’t be in a grace period, forbearance, and/or deferment.
Where can I find out more?
You can go to the Federal Student Aid website. They have a bunch of information regarding student loans.
This is a guest post from Christa, the founder of ObjectWealth.com, a blog on personal finance and her journey to go from massive debt to building financial independence. She is also a hospital pharmacist and loves watching Game of Thrones (even though it gives her nightmares).