Protecting and serving your community is something that should be commended and supported. Thankfully, the federal government acknowledges that taking this path is worth forgiving all or part of the higher education balances you took to get there. It’s the least that can be done to thank first responders and public servants for their service.

Still, how does student loan forgiveness for first responders and other public servants work? And are you eligible for forgiveness if you’re in one of those fields?

Fact: Student debt averages $29,400 per student, but firefighters & EMTs only make $34,000 per year, on average.

The information below can help you understand how to take advantage of loan forgiveness if you’re a first responder or other public servant. If you still have questions or want to get started, call us or complete the form to the right.

How loan forgiveness works

Qualifying for loan forgiveness is actually more straightforward than you might think. If you are in an eligible field you follow the following process to qualify:

  1. You must maintain employment in the public service sector.
  2. You apply for one of three hardship-based student loan consolidation programs – that’s either an Income-Based Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment, or Pay As Your Earn.
  3. You make 120 payments on that program (that’s 10 years of payments).
  4. After 10 years, the remaining balances on your consolidated loans are forgiven without penalty – the remainder is erased without credit damage or any additional payments needed.

Consider that each of these consolidation programs the term is 25 years. So loan forgiveness allows you to get out of 15 years of monthly payments – that’s 180 payments you don’t have to make.

Eligible service professions

This forgiveness is based on public service. Essentially, the federal government offers it in exchange for the increased risk and decreased income that first responders and public servants often face in service of their communities.

So who can qualify?

  • All first responders:
    • Emergency Medical Technicians and other emergency management professionals
    • Firefighters
    • Law enforcement
  • Public safety staff

Of course, there are also programs available for public service teachers and other educators, as well as nurses and other public healthcare professionals.

Things to know about loan forgiveness

There are some important things to note about loan forgiveness to make sure you can qualify:

  • You MUST consolidate and be enrolled in one of the three programs mentioned above in order to be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
  • You also have to stay employed as a first responder or public servant – you can’t change professions and move into the private sector if you still want to qualify.
  • Loan forgiveness only applies to federal student loans – private loans are not eligible. The loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized
  • Loan forgiveness is not dependent on graduation. If you are a first responder who went to school for higher education in your chosen field but didn’t graduate, you can still qualify as long as you’re working as a first responder.
  • There is no credit damage for loan forgiveness, the balances are cleared as if you paid your loan off in-full and creditors will see it as if you have.