If you have federal student loans, you have one major benefit that you can take advantage of and that’s student loan forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness comes in two flavors for federal student loans. The first through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and the second through an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
Under PSLF, you have a repayment term of 10 years, whereas most IDR plans have a repayment term of 20 years. Many people think you must choose one or the other, but that’s not necessarily true. Read on to learn more about 10-year student loan forgiveness compared to student loan forgiveness after 20 years.
What is 10-year student loan forgiveness?
If you’re looking for the shortest route to getting your loans gone, you’ll want 10-year student loan forgiveness. The only option for this is through the PSLF program, which is available to both nonprofit and certain government workers who are eligible for 10-year student loan forgiveness after making 120 payments. To qualify, you must be on an IDR plan and pay as normal.
After serving for 10 years and making 120 payments, which don’t have to be consecutive, you can apply for student loan forgiveness. Under PSLF, the loans that are forgiven aren’t considered taxable income by Uncle Sam.
What is 20-year student loan forgiveness?
If you’re looking for 20-year student loan forgiveness, then you’ll want to opt for an income-driven repayment plan. The following plans have student loan forgiveness after 20 years:
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan — if loans are from obtaining undergraduate degree
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan — if you’re a recent borrower (after July 1, 2014)
Under an IDR plan, your monthly payments are capped at a small percentage of your discretionary income, typically 10%. That way, your payments are affordable, and you can stay in good standing on your loans.
These IDR plans have a longer repayment term — in fact, double that of PSLF with 20 years. You must recertify each year to stay on track. To do so, fill out the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request Form.
These plans don’t have any career requirements, so you can work in any job. Nearly all federal student loan borrowers are eligible for one of these options. After making payments for 20 years, talk to your loan servicer about student loan forgiveness.
10- vs. 20-year student loan forgiveness
You might feel like you have to make a big decision about whether to go with 10- or 20-year student loan forgiveness. But not exactly — here’s why.
Under the 10-year student loan forgiveness option, PSLF, you must be on an IDR plan. Under the 20-year student loan forgiveness option, you’re also on an IDR plan.
If for some reason you decide not to do the 10-year student loan forgiveness because you no longer want to work in public service, not all is lost. If you’re ineligible for PSLF in the long run, you still have options.
You can stay on an IDR plan and get student loan forgiveness after 20 years. If you go with the 20-year route but were eligible for PSLF, you’ll unfortunately end up paying two-thirds more because of tax consequences associated with forgiveness under IDR but not PSLF.
Which one is better?
From a time perspective, 10-year student loan forgiveness is a good option because you’re making payments for a shorter amount of time. That briefer time frame means paying less in interest overall. On top of that, you don’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.
However, there are career requirements in order to go this route that are pretty important to consider. Having strings attached to your job is a lot to commit to. You shouldn’t base your job on student loan forgiveness.
If working in public service will make you miserable, you’re better off getting student loan forgiveness after 20 years with an IDR plan. Bonus – you’ll likely be able to make more money not working in public service.
On the other hand, if you plan on working in the public sector anyway, going after PSLF makes sense. Even if you change your mind mid-way, not all is lost if you stay on an income-driven plan.
You can simply stick to IDR, and if there’s still a balance after 20 years, you can get your loans forgiven. Just be sure to save up for taxes so you’re not in a financial bind. We recommend using Betterment, which is an investment brokerage, so you can get the best returns on the money you put away for taxes.
In the end, you don’t have to be firm and choose a 10-year student loan forgiveness plan over a 20-year one. Under both options, you’re on an income-driven repayment plan, so if PSLF doesn’t work out or you change your mind, there’s still another option.
Do you need help deciding how you should tackle your student loans? Get in touch with us to create a custom plan just for you.