The Scoop on Student Loan Forgiveness for Speech Language Pathologists




I just sent my annual paperwork in to work towards forgiveness for my student loans. I would never go back and choose another path, but this path definitely wasn't cheap! If you are a speech pathologist in the same boat as me, there are a few different options out there to help get rid of some of that debt. I have spent a LOT of time figuring out how to get the most money forgiven that I can, so here are some of the things I have discovered along the way:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness - Special education teachers can have up to $17,500 forgiven if you work in a low income school full-time for 5 consecutive years. After you complete your 5 years, you send in the paperwork and voila! You get this amount subtracted from what you owe and it is not considered taxable income. This forgiveness program seems to be pretty hit or miss for us SLPs. I have known some SLPs who have submitted their paperwork and the loans were forgiven with no questions asked. Other SLPs have tried again and again and are denied each time. It seems to be more difficult to get forgiveness if you do not have to have a teacher's license in your state (like me). I personally chose not to go with this program because of the inconsistency of acceptance of SLPs and I would have more forgiven with a different program.
  • Perkins Loan Forgiveness - All of your Perkins Loans can be forgiven as an SLP (Yay!). For every year you work for up to 5 years, a portion of your loans are forgiven. At the end of every year you work, submit the paperwork to your loan holder and portion of your debt disappears. I have personally used this loan forgiveness program and it is pretty easy! I recommend applying for deferment at the beginning of each school year in anticipation of cancellation of your loans. This way you do not have to pay a dime. I wish all forgiveness programs worked like this one!
  • Indian Health Services Program - If you are willing to relocate to work for a Native American or Alaskan native community, you can have up to $40,000 forgiven for agreeing to 2 years of employment. 
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness - While this program is a bit tricky to maneuver, it can be worth it if you are planning to work for a public place of employment (such as a school) and you have a lot of student loans. This is the program I have chosen to use. Here is how it works - if you work for 10 years/make 120 monthly payments on your loans, the remaining balance is forgiven tax-free. If you are thinking about pursuing this program, it is really important to have your loans consolidated into Federal Direct loans through the Department of Education. These are the only type of loans that will qualify. Any past payments made on the loans while they were not direct loans do not count towards forgiveness. The best way to maximize your forgiveness is to use income-based repayment (IBR). It is probably safe to say that if you are working for a public employer like a school, you are probably not raking in the cash. By switching to IBR, your payments are capped to 15% of your income (and only 10% if you are a new borrower after 2014). This way, you are not paying more than you have to and more will be forgiven at the end your 120 payments. Since most you us SLPs are females, it is important to note that the 120 payments do not need to be consecutive - so if you start a family and want to take some time off, you still can. Your monthly payments towards 120 will start counting again when you go back to work. In case you were wondering (because I did), if you apply for the teacher loan forgiveness program but also want to use this program, it will reset the 120 payment clock - so it does not make much sense to do that. I chose this program for a few reasons - 1) Schools are the place for me. I have worked in other settings and I just cannot see myself going anywhere else. 2) I have a fair amount of student loans and this is the best way for me to get the most amount of money forgiven. 3) With the IBR program, I am not stuck with payments I cannot afford.
These are some options for you if you work in a school or other public place of employment. Please note that these options are for federal loans only. Private loans do not currently qualify for any forgiveness programs. If you work for a private company - check to see if they have any options for loan repayment! I work per diem for a private rehab facility that offers full time therapists help paying your loans in exchange for working there for a certain amount of time. If that doesn't help - keep buying those lotto tickets ; )

Are you a speech pathologist who has had any of your loans forgiven? What has your experience been like?

~Erin




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