Student loan forgiveness for the arts

If you’re working in the nonprofit or public arts, or plan to be, and you’re carrying Federal student loans, it’s a good time to be sure your record-keeping is in order. As a tag-along to the recent health care reform legislation, the Federal government also enhanced its approach to student loans. As a result, there may be loan forgiveness in your (distant) future.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is intended to provide financial incentive and reward to those who choose and remain in a career in public service. “Public service” is broadly defined in the legislation to include any federal, state, or local government organization or agency and most charitable non-profit organizations (primarily 501c3, but not exclusively). You become eligible for principal and interest forgiveness after 120 on-time monthly payments while working for a qualified organization (the payments don’t have to be sequential).

That means at least 10 years of on-time payments, along with evidence that you worked for a qualified organization at the time (hence the record-keeping recommendation). Plus, the clock starts retroactively on October 1, 2007, so at least a few years of past payments could qualify. There are also specific rules about what types of loans qualify, so you should be sure your ducks are in a row now to be sure you’ll be eligible.

The year 2017, when the first requests can be filed, may seem like a distant future. But if you’re carrying a reasonable amount of Federal student loans and paying only the minimum, it could mean a rather nice gift for those who follow the rules and keep the files. If you’re interested, there’s a handy Q&A document available for download (PDF).


  1. Jennie says

    I called to inquire about this and discovered that to change to a payment plan that qualifies for this program, my monthly payments would double from $350 to $700! If I could afford to pay that much (I also have private loans at Sallie Mae), the loan might well be paid off in 10 years anyway.
    My guess is that most of us who work in public service – in any field – cannot afford to participate in this program.

  2. Tara S says

    I’m enrolled in the income-based repayment (new and different from the income-contingent plan) and, as far as I know… if I stay in the IBR and work non-profit for ten years the remainder of my balance will be forgiven. My monthly payment is much less than the standard payment.