Learn about important latest measures from the U.S. Department of Education to help borrowers as interest accrual and monthly student loan payments are set to resume.
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Depending on where you live, the police department may require an associate or bachelor’s degree for employment. Even if it doesn’t, a degree could be necessary to advance your career.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is the federal government’s acknowledgment that the debt public servants like police officers incur is excessive debt relative to their average earnings. Created under George W. Bush in 2007, PSLF establishes a system whereby law enforcement officers can qualify to have a portion of their student loan debt forgiven.
How Public Service Loan Forgiveness Works for Police Officers
- First, you must enroll in a hardship-based federal repayment plan. There are three plans that qualify:
- Then, you must certify that you work in an accredited public service law enforcement career.
- You make payments for 10 years on the repayment plan. These programs run for 20-25 years, so PSLF cuts the term by half or more.
- After 120 payments, the loan servicers forgive the remaining balances on your loans without penalties.
You get credit for paying your loans off as if you paid the full amount. It’s good for your credit score and gets you out from under your debt early.
3 Things to Know about PSLF for Police Officers
#1: You must work in the public sector 100% of the time
It’s important to note that not all law enforcement professionals qualify; you must be employed in public service. If you get a degree in criminal justice and work at a private correctional institute, you don’t qualify.
Keep in mind that this requirement applies over the course of your repayment plan. You must maintain employment in public service throughout the 10 years. If you transfer into the private sector you can keep your repayment plan. However, you won’t qualify for PSLF.
#2: Determine if your police department is eligible
The Department of Education offers an Employment Certification Form to help people confirm they’re in a qualifying employment position. The government does not require you to use this certification during your repayment plan. However, they recommend that you certify annually or anytime you switch jobs.
You need to take advantage of this certification and keep it current. Otherwise, you may get to your 120th payment only to find you don’t qualify for forgiveness.
#3: Repayment plan eligibility depends on your income
As the name implies, enrollment in a hardship-based repayment plan requires you to prove you have a financial hardship. This means your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) must be at a certain level compared to the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) for your state for your family size. In general, your AGI must be 150% or less of your state’s FPL.
Let’s say the federal poverty line in your state is $20,000 for a family of two. If you are a patrol officer with one child in your household, you must make $30,000 or less to qualify. Bear in mind that eligibility relies on AGI. The same kinds of claims that reduce your liability on your tax returns can help you qualify for the right federal repayment plan. In this example, qualified childcare deductions would reduce your AGI. So, you might make more than $30,000 and still qualify.
Important updates to student loan forgiveness for police officers
Public Service Loan Forgiveness falls under the Department of Education and like any federal program, is subject to change as presidential administrations change. Even if you’ve maintained ongoing Employment Certification, regularly check your eligibility status and recertify, even if you haven’t changed jobs since your last certification. This will help ensure you still qualify and that your student loan payments aren’t made in vain.
A recent report from the Department of Education found that of the 29,000 loan forgiveness applications processed since October 2017, only 289 have been approved. The DOE rejected one-third of the applications due to incomplete paperwork. But the other two-thirds were rejected because the borrower failed to meet all qualification standards. Some borrowers had the wrong types of loans, while others weren’t enrolled in the right repayment plan.
This underlines the benefit of working with a third-party debt resolution specialist that knows the federal student loan system. Unlike loan servicers that are notoriously bad about providing the right information to borrowers, you hire someone to be your advocate. They understand the paperwork and can help you navigate the process to ensure you qualify.
Article last modified on August 11, 2023. Published by Debt.com, LLC