THE BLOG
03/17/2014 05:21 pm ET Updated May 17, 2014

I Work in Law Enforcement and Can't Afford My Student Loans

Huffington Post Reader Question

Dear Steve,

I just read your article and am hoping you can assist me. I'm already on a loan forgiveness plan, I think, with my loan being taken over from Sallie Mae and given to MyFedLoan.com, because I qualified for a program working for the government as a county sheriff's employee.

I still feel like my monthly payment is too high. And I'm finding myself barely above water each month. The options are limited and I'm currently under the income-based payment plan. This is how my loan is summarized:

Loan Summary:
03/03/2011 Direct Sub Stafford Loan Repayment $4,899.43
03/03/2011 Direct Unsub Stafford Loan Repayment $6,422.61
04/19/2010 Federal Unsub Stafford Loan Repayment $8,331.00
04/19/2010 Federal Stafford Loan Repayment $5,663.46
08/24/2009 Federal Unsub Stafford Loan Repayment $8,705.84
08/19/2009 Federal Stafford Loan Repayment $5,663.46
Totaling: $39,685

I've tried to get my payment lowered and its the most difficult thing to do. I don't want to do forbearance again because I don't want to increase my total loan. What are my options? HELP!!

Marta

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Dear Marta,

I agree with your negative view of forbearance. It's not a solution by itself. That's just a stall tactic that often makes things worse.

What I see is Sallie Mae typically tries to sell a $150 deferment or forbearance option which seems like it rarely resolves the problem. It just helps to grow the balance and magnify the problem.

There is some good news here. Because of your job you may qualify for the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness program. After making 120 on-time payments the entire balance of your loans can be forgiven. It's unclear if that is the program you think you are enrolled in because there is no enrollment for the program.

The public service forgiveness is a much quicker forgiveness solution than the 25 year Income Based Repayment solution.

I would suggest you click here for more info on how to identify if your loans might be eligible and how it all works.

Just because you are on an Income Based Repayment (IBR) program with a reduced payment, that doesn't mean your payment can't be reduced further still. Under the IBR your maximum monthly payments will be 15 percent of discretionary income, the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence (other conditions apply). If your payment is higher than that then you certainly need to speak to your servicer to get that modified.

It's important to remember that in a federal Income Based Repayment program your interest owed will grow but in your case if you remain eligible for the public service loan forgiveness program your full debt will be forgiven so the growing balance isn't really a consideration at this point.

It's also not entirely clear to me if you've wrapped up the individual loans in a Direct Loan with an IBR affordable payment. If not, it's something to look at as well.

More research needs to be done on your situation but I certainly feel there are some good options for you. One place to look for help is here.

The hardest part of your situation is going to be making sure you connect with a knowledgeable professional and not one of the many scam student loan assistance companies.

Steve

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