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Student loan debt webinars will address changes in Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

A limited-time expansion of eligibility gives many a second chance to qualify

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Mel Tubb and the Rev. Alexandra Zareth of the Presbyterian Mission Agency know what it’s like to burdened by student loan debt.

Tubb, associate for Financial Aid for Service, graduated from seminary nearly a decade ago with more than $85,000 in student loan debt.   Zareth, associate for Leadership Development & Recruitment for Leaders of Colors, has more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

Now, Tubb and Zareth are inviting all Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders to join them for student loan debt webinars at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Jan. 24 and at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Jan. 27. During the webinars they’ll discuss their real-life experiences with student loan debt as well as limited-time changes that have been made to expand eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Mel Tubb

“With PSLF, qualifying federal student loan debt is forgiven after 10 years of service to a qualifying employer,” Tubb said. “Many ministers and other church leaders who used to be excluded from PSLF are now included with the chance to have their previous service count retroactively. That’s a huge change.”

The webinars will cover that change, along with others in the PSLF program that expire at the end of October. Tubb and Zareth will provide leaders with information on how to reapply for student loan forgiveness even if they were explicitly told they weren’t eligible. They’ll also address any questions church leaders have.

“This is about connecting and walking together, because student loan debt can be scary, shameful and overwhelming,” Zareth said. “It’s about taking courageous steps, looking at what you owe, figuring out who you owe it to and learning what you can do about it.”

When Tubb got her first letter indicating she owed $900 a month on her loan, she was working for a nonprofit social work organization. At first she panicked. But then someone in her life told her about resources that were available, including the income driven repayment plan, which helped to lower her payments.

“That’s when I became passionate about making sure others knew what resources there are to help relieve this kind of debt,” she said.

The Rev. Alexandra Zareth

Zareth started borrowing money for school earlier than Tubb, because that’s the only way she could afford her education. Coming from different cultural background — her parents live in another country — she was taught never to owe anybody anything. “You might not have a lot,” she said, “but you owned what you had.”

Tubb and Zareth will be joined by experts from the group PeopleJoy, a group that specializes in student loan and student debt forgiveness. PeopleJoy has been involved in the U.S. Department of Education‘s rule-making process, advocating for the changes that are now in place.

“I believe with awareness comes choice. If we don’t’ have choices, we don’t have awareness,” Zareth said. “This is about gaining awareness by empowering ourselves with information and God liberating our hearts and souls. This is the lifelong abundance promised [to us] as children of God. I’m very passionate about that.”

The student loan debt webinars will be translated in Spanish and Korean in real time. Learn more about the webinars here.

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