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How Earning PSLF Changed My Life

/ Blog Post

By April Giancola, Director of Public Interest Advising at University of North Carolina School of Law

Photo of April Giancola

Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to work in the public sector—in indigent defense, civil legal services, and now law school counseling. In my current role, I draw upon my 16 years of public interest legal experience to advise law students and alumni. I’m at my professional best when I can support others to be their most successful selves.

Without the help of the Department of Education’s (DOE) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, my career in the public sector would not have been possible. PSLF supports public service professionals who took out loans to support their education. The PSLF program was designed so that after ten years of monthly loan repayment and full-time public service, public service professionals would earn forgiveness on their remaining federal student debt.

In the fall of 2019, I received word from the DOE that my application for PSLF was approved. A weight I had been carrying since 1993, when I earned my undergraduate degree, was finally lifted.

I took four years off between college and law school. When I made the choice to pursue a legal education, I did so with purpose—I knew that I wanted to serve others. I did not necessarily know that my path would lead me to become a career development professional, and I’m grateful to still be in a position of service.

From 2007 to 2019, my life was filled with meticulous paper trails, lots of phone calls with my current loan service provider, and consistently sending in employer verification forms. At times it was frustrating; I found that I would have to talk to people who sometimes did not know anything about PSLF or how to answer my questions. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, and I would do it all over again.

PSLF must be sustained. I don’t know what I would have done without income-based repayment, and a light at the end of this very long tunnel. Having to pay more than $1,000 a month of education debt is demoralizing, if not impossible for many public service professionals. It certainly keeps out many smart, dedicated, and passionate students from pursuing careers in public interest—because they simply cannot take on the payments.

Without relief, high educational debt makes it nearly impossible to live a sustainable life. Public service professionals deliver critical health, education, and public safety services to those who need them the most, helping to uplift families across the nation. We must preserve PSLF for future generations of public service warriors.

Click here to learn more about how you can take action to preserve PSLF.

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