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Webinars assist full-time church employees with their education debt

Financial Aid for Service helps as student loan payments resume in October

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Debbie Cato

Laura Bryan, coordinator of the Office of Financial Aid for Service, hopes anyone working full-time (more than 30 hours) for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with education debt will come to the webinars her team is hosting this fall and start the process to have their debt forgiven. “There is help for nonprofit employees through income-driven repayment plans, consolidation and Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” Bryan said.

In the first eight months of 2023, 53 borrowers referred by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Board of Pensions have received more than $2.8 million in loan forgiveness. The Student Loan Assistance program helps teaching elders and PC(USA) employees serving congregations, PC(USA) agencies, and related organizations like camps and conference centers or PC(USA)-related schools, colleges, universities and seminaries.

Josh Kosanke

“Payments are going to resume 100% starting this October. They absolutely are,” said Josh Kosanke, customer success manager of PeopleJoy, a service provider that the Presbyterian Mission Agency has partnered with to help employees of churches, mid councils and denominational bodies to consolidate and retire their student loans. Kosanke noted that during the Covid pandemic, the payment of student loans had been extended repeatedly. “It’s not going to happen this year,” Kosanke said in an Aug. 24 webinar hosted by the PMA’s  Office of Financial Aid for Service. “The reason why is that payments going back into effect were baked into the debt ceiling bill that passed this summer.”

Since 2017, full-time employees of the PC(USA) and other denominations have been eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Smaller churches aren’t always registered as a qualifying nonprofit with the PSLF database, and thus it can be hard as an individual to navigate the process directly through the government’s website. PeopleJoy will help pastors, educators and staff get their church registered as an eligible employer with the PSLF program and shepherd applications all the way through the process to consolidation and to complete forgiveness. According to Kevin Porath, PeopleJoy’s account manager for operations, “PeopleJoy has helped add over 100 PC(USA) churches listed as eligible 501(c)(3) employers with the Department of Education.”

“Getting my student debt forgiven is absolutely life-changing for me,” the Rev. Debbie Cato said in a testimonial of gratitude for her PeopleJoy adviser, Paloma Garza. “I’m going to retire in five years, and I would never be able to pay off my student debt,” said Cato, who has served churches in Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, as well as nonprofits and city governments serving unhoused people. “I’m so stunned that it was forgiven and so grateful. I never could have done it on my own.”

The Office of Financial Aid for Service partners with PeopleJoy to offer Student Loan Coaching.

Recordings of the webinars are available. The next webinar  is set for 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Sept. 20.


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