Michelle Lieder, an elementary school physical education teacher in South Washington County, recently got a surprise in her bank account as student loan payments she had made for the last two years were returned to her as she completed the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
“I felt like I won the lottery,” Lieder said. “The money that was forgiven will allow me financial freedom to take care of house projects and travel.”
Lieder first heard about loan forgiveness options when she attended an Education Minnesota Degrees, Not Debt workshop through her local union.
“I went to the course about five years ago to learn about the program in hopes I would one day qualify,” she said. “I was determined to take advantage of it.”
But as many educators find out, the process for Lieder was not as easy as it should be.
“As I began applying to learn if I was on track to qualify, I found out that I had not been on the correct repayment plan,” she said. “My biggest frustration is that the borrowers, the FedLoan for example, have had zero responsibility in guiding public service employees who may qualify to the correct repayment plans so that they could be on the right track.”
Last summer, Lieder knew she met the requirements for the Temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness and spent three months going back and forth with submitting information to the program.
“There was always some confusing reason as to why I did not qualify,” she said. “I was spinning in circles with them no matter who I talked to or how many times I resubmitted the paperwork. I took a break, did more research on how to get qualified, contacted Education Minnesota for advice, and then in April of 2021 received a random letter in the mail stating that my account was being considered for TPSLF.”
As the school year ended, Lieder logged into her account and said she noticed things looked a little different.
“It was now saying I had met the requirements,” she said. “Within a couple weeks my balance was forgiven and the payments I had made for two-plus years were deposited into my bank account.”
Lieder said that she encourages other educators to check into the process and give it a try, as well as a reminder that Education Minnesota and the Degrees, Not Debt program can help.
“This was something that I put a lot of time into and had hit so many setbacks that I was sure it wasn’t actually happening,” she said. “But once the money was in my bank account and the account balance was zero at FedLoan, I was so relieved.”