Here’s what you need to know about student loan forgiveness

The most complicated thing about college isn’t the workload or the dining hall or your route to class — you’ll figure all those things out soon enough. No, the most complicated math most of us will face in college is the kind you do trying to figure out the confusion that is financial aid. Specifically, the federal public service loan forgiveness program, which has been a blessing for most college students, but isn’t very up front about how it works…or even if it’s here to stay.

With all this uncertainty, the Student Loan Ranger over at US News decided to break it all down into easy-to-understand chunks so nobody heads off to school in the dark. First off, what is it?

Those who were eligible would make monthly payments, likely based on their income, until they reached the magic number: 120. After this, their remaining debt would be waived, and not taxed as income.

How do you know if your loans are eligible? Federal Stafford and PLUS loans, including Parent PLUS loans, are they way to go. If your loans fall under the Federal Family Education Loan Program or Perkins loans, they’ll qualify if you consolidate them under the direct loan program. Defaulted loans are only eligible if the default is resolved.

Your payment is eligible if they’re made on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and if they’re made “a 10-year standard, income-based, Pay as You Earn or income-contingent repayment plan, or a combination of these plans.” You also must be working for an eligible employer (you can check the list over here), make the payments while the loan is under the direct loan program, while it’s not in default, and in full within 15 days of the due date.

If you want to apply, you have a few options. You can submit your paperwork annually, which is the recommended option, or submit every few years, or even all at once after the 120 payments have been made. However, what happens next is hard to predict, since the first students to take advantage of this plan won’t be eligible to receive the benefits until October 2017.

There’s also some uncertainty about if the program will even make it until then. While those who are already in college, or making their payments, are in the clear, any incoming freshman shouldn’t base their borrowing decisions on the plan just in case it’s not there to save you later down the line. Make responsible and realistic decisions, and your hard work will pay off regardless!

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