Lifting the Burden of Student Debt
When Rebecca Quinn, V05, opened a letter and read that her remaining student debt balance of more than $70,000 had been forgiven, it brought tears to her eyes. “And I’m not a crier,” she admits.
Thanks to her perseverance, the collaborative assistance from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Financial Aid Office, and support from her peers, Quinn has been unsaddled from a long-standing burden.
Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, offers a limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) during which borrowers may receive credit for payments that previously did not qualify for PSLF or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Among the original qualifications, borrowers must be employed full-time by a U.S. federal, state, or local government or a non-profit organization, have Direct Loans and repay them under an income-driven repayment plan or the 10-year standard plan, and make 120 qualifying payments.
“This program is designed to help borrowers whose income, while working for a non-profit, doesn’t support the amount of debt they’ve incurred,” explains Charlotte Hydrick, associate director of financial aid. “Rebecca worked for a state or non-profit for 14 years and made her payments on time. She found out about the waiver and contacted our office for help.”
“This was life changing. I have a seven-year-old daughter, and this has changed our lives for the better in so many ways. I can now support my family in a way that I never dreamed I’d be able to.”
Rebecca Quinn, V05
Quinn greatly appreciates the help she received. “The Financial Aid Office has been exceptional from the moment I applied to the school many years ago,” Quinn acknowledges. “They were honest about the financial implications from the start and established a relationship with me, so I understood the commitment I was making. After I graduated, they helped me consolidate my loans and worked with me through the waiver process.”
Upon thinking that she qualified for the debt waiver in 2017, Quinn’s application was among the 99 percent of applicants who were rejected. She thought her case was closed. “The loan servicers had strict guidelines for qualifying payments, with no forgiveness and no leniency,” Hydrick explains. “They were rejecting a payment if it was a penny off.”
However, earlier this year Quinn was advised by her peers about the revised guidelines for the limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness, so she reached out to Cummings School and was graciously assisted by Financial Aid Coordinator Suzanne Ukpong. “Suzanne was amazing,” says Quinn. “She did a live Zoom with me, spending hours of her time helping me complete my documents correctly.”
Ukpong worked with Quinn through the process of loan consolidation, selection of a repayment plan, and submission of the PSLF waiver, as well as answering numerous questions along the way. “It is such a complicated process, and you must be committed to seeing it through,” Ukpong shares. “When we talk to borrowers, a lot of them almost don’t believe it’s possible, but it is.”
Both Quinn and Ukpong were thrilled to learn that Quinn’s debt had been forgiven. “This was life-changing,” says Quinn, a cardiologist at Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. “I have a seven-year-old daughter, and this has changed our lives for the better in so many ways. I can now support my family in a way that I never dreamed I’d be able to.”
Hydrick and Ukpong have reached out to alumni and Cummings School employees who are now eligible for this waiver, and they hope that more will work with the Financial Aid Office to capitalize on this opportunity. For those who are repaying loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or have Perkins or other federal loans to include, it’s a two-step process – complete the free Federal Direct Consolidation Loan application and Promissory Note, then submit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Certification & Application. Loans borrowed through the Direct Loan program should not require consolidation unless the borrower is adding other federal loans.
“It’s two steps—to consolidate your loans and submit the employment certification form. We can assist them through the process,” Hydrick shares.
Quinn advises others to follow her lead. “There’s a lot of fine print that could help others qualify now,” she says. “I didn’t think I would. Thanks to Cummings School, I found the help I needed.”
Borrowers have until the end of October to complete the application process. Cummings School graduates seeking assistance can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-839-8733. For more information, borrowers can access online guidelines and assistance.
In addition to the federal loan forgiveness program, the Tufts Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) offers financial awards to Tufts graduates who have educational loans incurred for the purpose of attending Tufts and who are employed full-time by a public sector or non-profit organization while repaying those loans. The size of the award depends on factors including the number of applications received, the financial situation of the applicant, and the amount of funding available. For more information, visit Tufts LRAP, or contact Matt Reardon at email@example.com or 617-627-4440.