Americans owe about $1.5 trillion in student debt—a lot more than they owe in credit card debt or home mortgages. It’s a particular problem for educators, who are underpaid compared to similarly educated professionals, and it’s especially severe for educators of color, who typically have more debt when they graduate from college than their white peers.
That's why NEA is fighting to cancel student debt, and to expand and protect programs that can help. At the same time, we're also making sure those programs actually work, including:
- Income-driven repayment plans. Income-driven repayment plans can help keep payments affordable (and be as little as $0 per month). Educators must be in one of these repayment plans to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This federal program forgives the federal student loan debt of public employees including teachers and education support professionals after they make 120 qualifying payments.
- Teacher loan forgiveness. For teachers only, this program forgives up to $5,000 after five years of teaching, or up to $17,500 if you teach math or science at the secondary level, or special education at any level.
- Identifying the right repayment plan and forgiveness program—and then steering through the process—can be complicated. NEA is here to help with navigation tools and resources.
On September 17, Senators Schumer and Warren put out a resolution calling on the next President to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt immediately. This would be done by existing executive authority given to the President and Secretary of Education under the Higher Education Act.
NEA's Student Debt Team regularly hosts webinars and town halls to ensure members have access to the information they need. Watch our most recent webinar below:
A recent episode of the School Me podcast featured a conversation with Eric Harrington, Senior Counsel in the NEA Office of the General Counsel, about the increasing weight of student loan debt on Americans (particularly in a pandemic) and what can be done by the U.S. government to relieve borrowers. Listen here.
CONNECT TO SUPPORT
Federal income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness programs promise to help educators manage their debt, but these programs are often confusing and poorly administered. However, there are tools to help everyone get the relief they deserve.
NEA STUDENT DEBT NAVIGATOR
Exclusive to NEA members, the NEA Members Insurance Trust is offering one year of no-cost access to the NEA Student Debt Navigator powered by Savi. Use this tool to understand your relief options, file all required paperwork, and talk with experts to get your student loan debt under control. You don’t have to do this alone. It’s easy — log in and try it today: neamb.com/GetNavNEA.
New Jersey teacher Sean Ichiro Manes won Public Service Loan Forgiveness with NEA's help. "I don't have to think about that number — $103,000! That's a mortgage in itself, and I'm so relieved it's no longer there!"
3 Things to Know About Income-Drive Repayment Plans
Income-driven repayment plans can help keep payments affordable (and be as little as $0 per month). Educators must be in one of these repayment plans to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
- Monthly payments are determined by discretionary income, rather than the loan balance. With an income-driven repayment plan, you will pay around 10-15% of your discretionary income. You can estimate your monthly payments using the Federal Student Aid Loan Simulator.
- Being enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan is the only way to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which could forgive your student loans in as little as 10 years. Even if you don't qualitfy for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, when you participate in an income-driven repayment plan your balance is forgiven after 20 or 25 years.
- The less you make, the less you pay. Monthly payments can go down when you are facing financial hardship. Single applicants who make less than ~$19K or a family of four making less than ~$39K qualify for $0 monthly payments.
Apply for an income-driven repayment plan here.
5 Steps to Public Service Loan Forgiveness
This federal program forgives the federal student loan debt of public employees including teachers and education support professionals after they make 120 qualifying payments.
- Have the right kind of loan: Your loans must be Direct Loans to qualify for forgiveness.
- Have the right servicer: Your loans must be serviced by FedLoan when you request forgiveness.
- Be in the right repayment plan: You must be in an income-driven repayment plan.
- Work full-time for the right kind of employer (all public schools, colleges, and universities count): You must prove your employment by filing a public-service employment certification form. If your loans are not already serviced by FedLoan, they will be transferred to FedLoan when you submit the employment certification form.
- Make 120 on-time payments—they don’t have to be consecutive.
3 Steps to Teacher Loan Forgiveness
For teachers only, this program forgives up to $5,000 after five years of teaching, or up to $17,500 if you teach math or science at the secondary level or special education at any level.