Are you working in a job that serves other Americans — in a school, hospital, city hall perhaps — while living saddled with student loan debt? You could be part of the more than 33 million workers eligible to have student loans forgiven, a large number of which aren’t even aware they can do so. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says loan forgiveness program are too confusing for many to take advantage of, leading to a large number of wasted opportunities.
About a quarter of the U.S. workforce could qualify under federal rules for favorable loan repayment options, reports the Associated Press. But many of them don’t know that. As such, Congress should tweak its programs to make them more accessible, and employers should be informing their workers of the available options, says the CFPB.
“Teachers, soldiers, firefighters, policeman — public sector careers invariably involve some effort, some inconvenience or some sacrifice. People give up higher incomes to serve their city, their state or their country,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB. “We believe that people who contribute part of their talents, part of the benefits of their education, to society as a whole should not be mired in debt because they stir themselves to the calling of public service.”
Because these workers might not realize there’s a better way out of student loan debt, plenty send their money to lenders instead of keeping the cash to spend in their communities.
“The data is quite weak in this area. We don’t have a sense of how much money is left on the table,” said Rohit Chopra, the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman. “But we suspect it’s a substantial sum.”
It’s unclear how many aren’t taking advantage of this kind of help, but because the CFPB is also in public service, it knows how many do qualify.
“We estimate that one in four working Americans has a job that meets the definition of public service under this program. Many of these teachers, health care workers and other public servants could be eligible to have their college loans wiped out after ten years,” Cordray said.
Loan forgiveness could be an important motivation for people who are considering, for example, a career in education, but are worried about being underpaid or simply not making enough to pay off their loans. Educators make up a large chunk of those who qualify for loan forgiveness, with about 6.8 million eligible.
If you work in public service, it’s a good idea to ask your employer about your options. You can also check out this link on the topic at CFPB.gov.
Consumer bureau: Too few use loan forgiveness [Associated Press]