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Q&A on the Issues

Student Debt Relief Program

New York Teacher
Student Debt Relief

The UFT launched the Student Debt Relief Program in 2018 and since then, thousands of members have seen a reduction in monthly payments or have received significant loan forgiveness. Here’s what you need to know about the program and the status of federal student-debt forgiveness.

How can the UFT help me determine if I am eligible for loan forgiveness?

The Student Debt Relief Program provides webinars and one-on-one consultations at no cost to educate UFT members about federal loan forgiveness programs. After attending an introductory webinar, you can schedule a phone consultation with a loan specialist from the program. During these free consultations, the loan consultant will conduct a comprehensive review of your personal student loan history, determine your eligibility for loan forgiveness and develop an action plan to help you move forward.

UFT members then can opt to receive additional services at a discounted fee to help them navigate the complicated regulations of loan forgiveness programs and process necessary paperwork.

Is there any obligation to use these additional paid services?

No. After your free phone consultation, you will have two options:

  1. You can begin filling out forms and applying to the appropriate loan-forgiveness programs based on the action plan you received if you’re comfortable moving forward on your own.
  2. You can work with the program’s loan consultants who can perform these services for you at a discounted rate for UFT members.

What is the Biden-Harris Student Loan Debt Relief Plan?

The Biden-Harris plan provides up to $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients with federal loans held by the federal Department of Education and up to $10,000 in relief to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible if their income is less than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for households. Federal courts blocked the plan in the fall of 2022 following multiple legal challenges. The Biden administration appealed two of those challenges to the Supreme Court. The high court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

Are there other ways I could achieve loan forgiveness if the Supreme Court does not permit the Biden-Harris plan to move forward?

Yes, depending on the type of student loans you have, there are several other pathways to loan forgiveness. Attend a Student Debt Relief Program webinar and schedule a consultation to ensure you aren’t missing out on other loan-forgiveness options, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and income-driven repayment forgiveness.

What kind of loan forgiveness can I expect if I qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program?

As a public employee, you can lower your monthly payments and/or reduce the period to fully pay off your loans from 20–30 years to 10 years. You’ll need to recertify annually and submit an employment certificate every year to collect credits. If you remain in good standing and make 10 years of payments, you can receive tax-free forgiveness for the remainder of the principal and accrued interest.

How does the federal loan forgiveness program for teachers in Title I schools work?

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available to classroom teachers who serve for five consecutive years in a designated Title 1 school. It applies to direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, all Stafford loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL). Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get up to $17,500 removed from your balance owed right away.

Could I be eligible for loan forgiveness after paying off my loans for many years?

Yes, you may be eligible to achieve complete forgiveness after 20 years — or 25 years for graduate school loans. In 2023, the federal Department of Education issued a one-time exception to the way payments are counted toward those benchmarks. Normally, only borrowers who are in an income-driven repayment plan can get their loans totally forgiven after 20–25 years, but payment credits in any type of loan repayment plan are now being accepted, as well as some periods of temporary holds, like deferments and forbearance. Action may be required by Dec. 31, 2023, depending on the type of loans you have, so register for a webinar and follow-up consultation to learn more.

Are loans for graduate school eligible for forgiveness? What about Parent PLUS loans?

Federal student loans taken out to cover graduate degrees qualify for forgiveness. Federal Parent PLUS loans may be eligible for forgiveness through an income-contingent repayment plan or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

I already have received some loan forgiveness through one federal program. Could I be eligible for additional debt relief?

Yes, you could earn additional loan forgiveness even if you have already had some of your debt forgiven.

What if I have private student loans?

Private loans do not qualify for any federal loan forgiveness programs. They cannot be consolidated into a federal loan either, unfortunately.

I have been paying my loans back for more than 10 years. Could I receive a refund for payments I’ve already made?

If you are eligible for a loan forgiveness program, you may be eligible to receive a refund for payments that you made after making 120 payments.

How do I sign up for an information session to learn what loan forgiveness programs I may be eligible for?

The UFT website lists all the upcoming Student Debt Relief Program webinars with a link to register.