Minnesota teachers applaud overhaul of student loan program | State


Teachers in Minnesota and across the country with eligible student loans are about to see some relief after federal officials announced changes to a program criticized for being ineffective.

The US Department of Education is temporarily relaxing the requirements for the civil service loan forgiveness program.

Established in 2007, it aimed to provide student loan relief to public service workers, including teachers and paraprofessionals, but observers say bureaucratic hurdles have made eligibility more difficult.

Sarah Rother, a teacher at a public college in Chaska, said her difficulties with the application process went against the praise teachers often receive.

“It was really disheartening and demoralizing,” Rother said. “It was just one more obstacle the teachers faced.”

She stressed that she was grateful to see that her plea was answered.

For eligible borrowers, a waiver is offered to count all payments under the remission program, regardless of loan program or payment plan. However, the waiver is only valid until October of next year.

Lori Haak, a teacher at a public high school in Inver Grove Heights, believes there is a lack of information, which highlights long-standing issues with the program.

“I found the government student loan website to be very useless when trying to navigate on my own,” Haak explained.

Haak noted that her union’s advice had helped her along the way, but she feels those without such resources face even greater obstacles.

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, said the department was ready to right the wrongs inflicted on teachers across the country.

“We want to make sure that we are doing everything in the agency to protect our borrowers, our students,” Cardona promised. “We serve our students. We must say this clearly, not only in our speeches, but in our actions. You have done so much to help our community. We made you a promise, and now it’s our turn to keep that promise.

Under the program, the remainder of a borrower’s debt is written off after 120 monthly payments have been made while working full time.

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