New hope for educators grappling with student loan debt

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By Mary Ellen Flannery

Lucas and Andra Schrauben love their jobs! New teachers, Lucas in his first year and Andra in her second, they both work in Michigan, where they also hope to buy a house and soon start a family.

The only thing holding them back is the enormous amount of student debt that Andra, in particular, incurred in paying for their college degrees. Together, they owe more than $150,000.

“I always got good grades, always worked hard, always saved, and now I’ve got a great job—but I can barely afford it,” said Lucas Schrauben. “I’ve got this idea of the American Dream and I’m still going to realize it, but it might be a sliver of it or it just might take longer to get there.”

One bright spot is Lucas Schrauben’s eligibility for new federal repayment programs, such as the income-based Pay As You Earn program, which last week the U.S. Department of Education issued final rules for. Other repayment programs, also introduced by the Obama administration during recent years, include the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and the more specific Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

The way these works is:

  • To be eligible for Pay As You Earn, you must have taken out a your first federal loan after Sept. 30, 2007, and you also must have received a loan after Sept. 30, 2011. (The plan is intended to help recent graduates mostly.) You must also owe more than 10 percent of your discretionary income. Payments will be capped at 10 percent (lower than other repayment plans).
  • The original Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan, also for federal loan holders, is slightly different.  Your monthly payments will never be more than 15 percent of your income.
  • Borrowers in IBR plans will have their loans forgiven after 25 years of payments, but some teachers and other public-service workers can end their misery sooner! Public-service workers can stop payments after 10 years, if they were employed in public service during those ten years. If you’re a teacher in a Title 1 school, check out the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program specifically. It promises to forgive up to $17,500 of federal loan debt after five years. (For more information about all of these programs, visit

Lucas Schrauben is fortunate he borrowed from the federal government, as opposed to private lenders. Because of that, he was able to consolidate his loans and enter IBR. In doing so, his monthly payments were tied to a certain percentage of his income, and consequently dropped from $400 to $200 a month. (And yes, the extra $200 does make a difference to this young couple.)

His wife, unfortunately, who owes a much greater amount, borrowed mostly from private lenders. Basically, “she works to pay for gas—and her loans,” said Lucas Schrauben.

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Reader Comments

  1. I was a teacher, after being a journalist, for almost five years in a very diverse high school. I spent at least 55 to 60 hours working on lesson plans, correcting essays and research papersbecause this was English and I had students who could not read or write well. I really tried to help them and I loved the studens and teaching for the first 3 l/2 years. Then things started to go downhill in Wisconsin. However, the last year it was just horrible, no administrative support and a weapon in the room, collaborative planning all the time or each day almost, with material I and I think every other English teacher had when we went to college. I resigned. however, I took out loans to pay for this English Education certification and I really think I should get the loan lowered since this was a public high risk/needs school– even though I took the loan out after September 7th. I woudl havehung on for five years instead of almost 5 kyears, but really I wasn’t teaching with 50 kids in 2 classes and levels from advanced to IEP or special needs students, and no aides. Most of the kids were on task and trying to learn except for say 17 percent, who caused a lot of problems, but when I tried all my interventions and then finally sent them to administrators they were generally just sent back to me making it miserable for those who wanted to learn. I’m getting a Masters now and still woudl love to teach, but I really think a good portion of loans like this shoudl be forgiven or at least part even though I wasnt there for the entire five years and despite the fact I took out the loans before September 2007 because I finished my certification in spring 2007 and started to teach int hefall.
    So, Teachers are my heroes and heroines if they are committed and really doing the work without just using aides to do their work or passing the buck and not grading homework and just playing easyk games with students.To pay back loans good, committed teachers, including those who don’t take time off for vacations or banking time when the rest of the teachers are working like crazy, should be making six figures and not administrators or sports figures. Where are the priorities and values in this country?/ thanks for listening. CA Muskego, WI

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