This piece was originally published at USA Today.
Thousands of U.S. student loan borrowers who work as teachers, police officers, nurses, or in other public service jobs may soon benefit from a $350 million one-time expansion of a federal program that could forgive their remaining debt.
A compromise in the $3.1 trillion federal spending billsigned Friday by President Trump includes a one-time reprieve for borrowers who feared they’d missed the chance to get out from under often-crippling student loan debt that makes it hard to buy a home, start a family, or pay day-to-day bills.
“I’m very glad that, for the first time, we got some money to help public servants unfairly trapped under a mountain of debt,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who fought for the reprieve. But she stressed that fight for a “permanent fix” to the estimated $1.4 trillion in U.S. student loan debt goes on.
Created in 2007, the program was designed to help student loan borrowers in public service jobs get their remaining debt forgiven if they made 120 repayments, roughly 10 year’s worth, under a qualifying repayment plan. Each repayment must be made in full and on time.
The borrowers must work full-time for a qualifying employer, such as a federal or local government agency, or an eligible non-profit organization.
The program is limited to student borrowers who took out direct loans from the federal government. Private loans and non-direct government loans don’t qualify. However, borrowers may qualify if they consolidate their existing debt into direct loans. Their repayment clocks start when they do.
Borrowers must be enrolled in a qualifying repayment program. There are nine student loan repayment options. Some qualify; others don’t..