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Teachers Are Finding Themselves Burdened by Long-Lasting Student Loan Debt

More teachers than ever are pursuing Master’s Degrees as means to capitalize on the economic incentive that comes with graduate degrees. In a profession where education professionals are paid less than other highly skilled professionals, this often means taking on large amounts of student loan debt and then figuring out how to pay it off later down the road.

According to a new report released by NPR, paying off that student loan debt has become incredibly complicated for many educators and a constant source of worry. For some teachers, the overwhelming debt has them questioning if they’ll ever be able to pay it off or attain certain aspects of the American dream. "I just want to help kids with special needs from low-income families,” answered one teacher who said they had more than $75,000 in student loans. “This is part of the reason why I don't think I'll ever own a home or that I shouldn't have children because I can't afford it."

The NPR survey polled 2,000 teachers asking them a variety of questions, ranging from how much student loan debt they accumulated to their experience with their loan servicer and how concerned they were about paying off those student loans.

More than half of the respondents had over $50k in student loan debt and a majority of those polled said their debt was a constant source of worry and stress. "I feel like I'll be making the last payment from my grave,” said one respondent.

Choosing the right option on how to pay off student loan debt is its own source of frustration for teachers, with an overwhelming array of options, each with a near endless amount of fine print.

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says the many student loan repayment plans options are "tangled" and "uncertain."

In addition to private loans with high interest rates and limited payment options, there are a number of federally backed loans. For a teacher who has chosen the federal Stafford Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and is $50k in student loan debt, paying it off through teaching in public school for five years and having the government forgive X amount might sound like a no-brainer. Except when the fine print comes into play and accepting X amount resets another loan-forgiveness timeline. Delisle says that 3 out of 4 times, teachers don't meet all the requirements, which in-turn leaves them having to repay "grants" plus interest.

Paying those debts through for-profit companies called servicers is its own headache. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reported in June that paperwork and inaccurate information from FedLoan Servicing, has caused problems for borrowers who were on the 10-year path to debt forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The CFPB report covered 11,500 federal student loan servicing complaints over a one-year period.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is in jeopardy itself with President Trump’s February budget proposal calling for an end to the program. How teachers will cope with increasingly higher student loan debts that don’t balance out with salaries moving forward remains to be seen. Needless to say, there likely won’t be a simple solution.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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