The government's public service-loan forgiveness program was created with a simple premise: Take a job to help the greater good and get some debt relief down the road.
It hasn't been that easy. A confusing set of rules and servicers who provided misleading information left many people denied forgiveness.
"This is one of those well-intentioned programs that has made millions of people's heads spin," said Rohit Chopra, a federal trade commissioner.
The program was designed to encourage people to take jobs in teaching, social work or other positions that typically require higher education but pay modest wages.
To avoid financially crippling these workers, the government would forgive the balance of certain federal student loans after they worked full time for at least 10 years for a government or not-for-profit organization and made 120 monthly payments.
The initial round of forgiveness was supposed to begin in the fall of 2017, but few people have made it through.
If you are trying to navigate this process, here's some help:
• To begin, educate yourself on the requirements: you need to have the right kind of loan, the right kind of job and right kind of repayment plan. Anything less than all of these and you'll be rejected.
Check out the U.S. Department of Education's website at studentaid.gov/publicservice for more information.
• You must have a federal direct loan to qualify. Other popular ways to borrow — such as a Perkins loan, Federal Family Education Loan or through a private lender — do not qualify.
If you don't know what type of federal student loans you have, log into studentaid.ed.gov to find out.
• What counts as qualifying employment trips people up. You must work full time, which is based on your employer's definition of full-time or at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater. If you have multiple jobs, you can meet the requirement if you work a combined average of 30 hours per week.
It is your employer — not your job — that determines whether you meet standards for qualifying employment. Employment with a government organization at any level — federal, state, local or tribal — counts. Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also qualifies.
It gets a little trickier when it comes to not-for-profits. If you work for a not-for-profit that is tax-exempt under Internal Revenue 501c3 rules, you are fine. Otherwise, the not-for-profit qualifies only if their primary purpose is to provide "qualifying public service," which is a list of 12 different services.
• You must be in an income-driven repayment plan to qualify; these plans base your monthly payment on your income. Additionally, you must make all of your 120 payments under a qualifying plan. The payments don't have to be consecutive, but they must be in full.
• The program got off to such a rocky start and so many borrowers were denied that Congress passed a temporary expansion of the program.
To qualify, your application must have been already denied because some or all of the payments were made under the wrong type of repayment plan. Borrowers who believe they may qualify for the TEPSLF opportunity should e-mail a request for reconsideration to TEPSLF@MyFedLoan.org.
Sarah Skidmore Sell writes for the Associated Press.