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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

Firefighter Student Loan Forgiveness: 3 Programs to Consider

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Firefighting is among the most important careers out there. Firefighters spend their careers on the front lines, doing difficult and rewarding work in an attempt to prevent loss of life however possible.

Like many of the most rewarding careers out there, firefighting isn't known for its glamorous pay or benefits, and with more and more firefighters having attended colleges or universities, paying off accumulated student loan debt is difficult.

Thankfully, many firefighters across the country qualify for federal and/or state student loan forgiveness programs.

Three firefighters sitting on the back of a truck

Federal student loan forgiveness for firefighters

Firefighters should consider the following programs to aid with their student loan repayment:

1. Income-Driven Repayment

Firefighters will low household incomes may benefit from one of the Department of Education's four income-driven repayment plans. These plans are:

Depending on which of the programs you use, you'll make either 20 or 25 years of reduced payments before gaining eligibility to have the remainder of your federal student loan balance forgiven.

Your monthly payments will be recalculated annually at between 10% and 20% of your monthly discretionary income as calculated by the federal government. The formula they use takes into account multiple variables, including whether you live in the contiguous United States, what your income is, and how many people live in your household.

There is no minimum payments either, so you can potentially receive credit for monthly payments of $0.

The next forgiveness option, PSLF, is likely to be more financially advantageous for you, however.

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness, PSLF for short, is a loan assistance program reserved for those working in public service careers, of which firefighting qualifies for (as a career, not on a volunteer basis). PSLF eligible careers typically require full-time employment for a nonprofit or government (federal, state, local, or tribal).

PSLF requires you to make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying income-driven repayment plan. In addition, your loans must be part of the Federal Direct Program to be eligible, though this may be possible to achieve by consolidating your debt via a Direct Consolidation Loan, if needed.

After you have completed your 120 payments, you should gain eligibility to have the remainder of your qualifying federal loans forgiven.

To aid the federal government in keeping track of your PSLF status, you should most definitely complete the program's employer certification form (ECF) annually.

The PSLF annual employer certification form

3. Firefighters and Perkins Loan Cancellation

Firefighters holding outstanding Federal Perkins Loans may be eligible to have those loans forgiven over a period of five years. Though Perkins Loans stopped being issued in September 2017, many borrowers still hold them with outstanding balances.

Under the terms of the Perkins Loan Cancellation program, those working in eligible careers or volunteer service may have their Perkins Loans forgiven according to the following schedule:

  • 15% after the first year

  • 15% after the second year

  • 20% after the third year

  • 20% after the fourth year

  • 30% after the fifth year

Eligible employment and volunteer service includes military service or work as a firefighter, teacher, law enforcement officer, nurse, public defender, early childhood education provider, and more! And while exact qualifying criteria may vary by career choice, the program's potential rewards make these nuances worth figuring out.

Student loan forgiveness tips for firefighters

As the nation's firefighters plan out their student loan strategy, we want to provide a few tips designed to help make the process easier.

Our first suggestion is to look beyond the forgiveness strategies that we have mentioned within the scope of this article. Many borrowers don't realize it, but there are a number of state and local programs that firefighters may be eligible for. They'll still carry certain eligibility requirements, but can be more financially lucrative than their federal counterparts.

Make sure you check in your area for programs similar to this.

Our second tip is to consider the rights and privileges that your federal loans carry. If you struggle to qualify for any of the forgiveness programs covered here, refinancing your loans with a private lender is always something you can consider, though you will lose access to federal rights and protections such as deferment and forbearance.

Don't underestimate the additional flexibility that your federal loans carry.

Get our student loan forgiveness calculator

You may also consider downloading our student loan forgiveness calculator, which will show you your projected monthly payments, debt-free year, and total forgiveness balance across a number of federal and other repayment assistance programs, including:

  1. IBR

  2. ICR

  3. PAYE


  5. PSLF

  6. Private refinancing

  7. And more!

Our tool will help you make your decision as to what repayment assistance strategy may make the most sense for you!

Grab your copy of our calculator right now!

Which program should firefighters opt for?

We oftentimes hear from firefighters that read our content or have worked with us in the past about choosing the right forgiveness program. When we're asked this question, we usually provide the following tips to help you choose.

First and foremost, you're going to want to select a program that has a service obligation and eligibility criteria that you can meet. For example, pursuing PSLF will require you to work as a firefighter (or other qualifying job) for a decade to gain eligibility for federal loan forgiveness. So if aren't planning on serving as a firefighter for a decade, then PSLF is unlikely to be a good option for you.

Another thing that you should keep in mind as you decide among the programs is the actual amount of forgiveness that each program can provide. Perkins Loan Cancellation will only eliminate your Perkins Loans, for instance, while IDR and PSLF are more flexible and carry the possibility of forgiveness on far more types of federal loans.

Refinance your student loans

No matter how flexible or inclusive a program is designed to be, there will be firefighters that either do not qualify or do not want to pursue a forgiveness program. In this event, you'll likely want to consider refinancing your outstanding student loans.

Refinancing can be a great option to lower your monthly payments, lower your interest rate, and change the term on your remaining loan(s).

Firefighters deciding whether they should refinance their student debt should consider checking their rate with Splash Financial. Splash is a marketplace, rather than a single lender, so they are able to quickly find you a good rate from their network of participating lenders.

The best parts are that the rate check takes just three minutes and doesn't impact your credit score!

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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