Many Educators Hold Enormous Student Debt. NSNO Helps Them Navigate Relief.

NSNO offers support around waiver that expands qualifications for forgiveness

For many teachers in New Orleans, as in the nation at large, the Biden Administration’s recent announcement around loan forgiveness will be transformational. Many of our educators owe more in loans than they make in a year. At NSNO, we surveyed seven hundred educators and found that around half owe at least $50,000, well over the city’s median starting salary of $43,500 and similar to the median teacher’s salary of $51,500. Some educators face debt of over $100,000.

These educators are well underway in their careers; over 80% of those we surveyed were older than thirty, and 17% were fifty years old or above.

NSNO is committed to supporting our educators. We face a crisis in teacher retention and recruitment, and the burden of student loans can understandably draw educators away from the classroom into higher-paying fields. 

While the recent announcement will have an enormous impact–$10,000 for all federal loans, and $20,000 for borrowers who used Pell grants–many educators will still have significant debt left to pay. At NSNO, we are therefore hopeful about the prospect of the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which can fully forgive the federal loans of people who worked in public service careers for ten years or 120 payments. In practice, that forgiveness has been hard for many to achieve. Borrowers needed to make payments in a particular way, in order for PSLF to apply. 

Luckily, since October of last year, the government has offered a waiver that allows borrowers to participate in PSLF even if they might have been disqualified for certain reasons before. The waiver, as of now, lasts until October 31, 2022. We estimate that, through this waiver, New Orleans educators could receive $8 million in forgiveness. 

To help our teachers access this before time runs out, NSNO partnered with Ryan Frailich, a former teacher and certified financial planner. He specializes in working with people in the public sector, like teachers and nonprofit staff members. He understands this issue personally–when he was a teacher, he faced debt larger than his salary, too.  

Ryan Frailich

“I’ve been there, and I get it, and I know what it’s like to look at a balance that feels insurmountable,” Frailich says. 

He also knows how easy it is for a single choice or technicality to derail someone’s chance at debt relief. 

“There are some weird rules in the student loan space where something that might temporarily provide you three or six months of relief actually makes your debt balance grow,” he explains. “There’s a million acronyms and the system has been ‘Frankensteined’ together…it becomes this incredibly confusing maze.” 

Frailich teaching at KIPP Central City Academy in 2010

NSNO hosted two webinars with Frailich in mid August to help educators navigate that maze. Hundreds attended. We also prepared an FAQ guide to the PSLF waiver. They reviewed the basics of PSLF and the waiver, and had the chance to ask individual questions.  

Frailich is confident that many of our educators will have their federal loans get “to zero” through the waiver, or be on the path to do so. And while the paperwork and logistics can be daunting, he wants teachers to know that the system is overwhelming for everyone. 

“The thing that I always start with is, ‘you’re not alone,’” he says. 

He also feels they won’t be alone in seeing relief. At NSNO, we believe New Orleans’ teachers deserve to have these loans forgiven, and we are hopeful that this waiver will be transformational for them, their families, and our educational community. 

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