Guest Blog Post: Why is Public Service Loan Forgiveness So Unforgiving?

By: GWAC Immediate Past President Janea Hawkins

Why Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness So Unforgiving?

In the midst of the longest government shutdown in history, there is one integral facet of the federal government that has been partially shutdown for much longer: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  This program is designed to alleviate the federal loan debt of borrowers who work in certain types of public service after 10 years of payments.

Alarmingly, one report has stated that as of mid-last year, roughly 99% of processed applications for forgiveness under a government program aimed at helping public servants manage their federal student-loan debt had their applications rejected.[1] I’m not sure about you, but I went to law school on the condition that I would have a chance at having my enormous, at times paralyzing, amount of student loan debt forgiven. Apparently, I’m not alone. The current student loan debt is astounding, totaling over 1 trillion dollars across the country. Statistics show that millennials, who often minimally obtain a graduate degree to keep pace with our well-educated job market, are the most burdened with an average of $35,000 owed per person.

Many who entered the program when it first started in the Fall of 2007 really had to sort it out in a way that made sense because it was not well-publicized or communicated to borrowers. “It’s obvious that a huge number of people that couldn’t meet the requirements did not understand that they weren’t meeting the requirements,” said Clare McCann, the deputy director for higher education policy in the think tank New America’s education policy program.[2]  Over the years, many loan servicers received conflicting guidance from the Department of Education, which they passed on to thousands of borrowers seeking guidance.  As a result, many faithfully make their payments while they work in the public sector hoping that they will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel, but are disappointed when they discover that they are not eligible.

The first step to ensuring that forgiveness is attainable is to be armed with the basics:

Make 120 qualifying payments while under an income based repayment plan. A “qualifying payment” is one that is (1) made on a Direct federal loan; (2) under an income-driven repayment plan, while (3) working full-time for a public service employer such as government or public entity, or a nonprofit organization.

Also, a “qualifying payment” must be paid on time, or within fourteen days of the due date. That means fourteen days before or after the due date. One funky thing that I personally came across was when I used my Segal Education Award that I earned after my AmeriCorps service while working towards loan forgiveness. However, grants that are used towards loan repayment such as these will only make a lump sum payment on your behalf. So, even if the award amount covers multiple months’ worth of payments, you will only get credit for one payment.

Payments don’t have to be consecutive, so you can switch between qualifying and non-qualifying employers without being reset to zero.  It’s also important to know that under public service loan forgiveness, your debt is forgiven tax-free.

In the DMV, many attorneys work under government-contractor status and not government employee status.  This may not be enough to be considered a qualifying employer. As student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz has stated, “Government contractors must themselves be qualifying organizations for their employees to qualify for public service loan forgiveness.” [3]

Given all of the tricks of this trade, the best thing you can do is to submit the employer certification form to your loan servicer, available at, every year. This will especially become important if one of your previous employers no longer exists. Also, keep records of everything you submit, since it is not uncommon that your submissions become lost. Hopefully when your time for loan forgiveness comes, you will pass with flying colors. If not, roll up your sleeves and get ready for a fight because the challenging fight of getting out of student debt is worth it!


[2] Id.


Guest Blog Post: Seven Overlooked Self-Care & Goal-Setting Principles for the New Year

By Roberta Oluwaseun Roberts, Esq.

Seven Overlooked Self-Care & Goal-Setting Principles for the New Year

(A shorter version of this post was originally published at

A new year is here again and taking better care of one’s self is at the top of many people’s goals for the new year, especially for lawyers who are becoming more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy personal life while working in a high-stress profession such as the legal profession.  The concept of self-care has increased in popularity in recent years but it is often not discussed on a deeper level — while taking time for yourself and your physical health by getting your nails done and going to spin class does count as self-care, that is not all true, comprehensive self-care entails.  True self-care is not just physical self-care; true self-care addresses body, mind, and spirit.  So, I would love to share with my fellow black women lawyers seven commonly overlooked principles for self-care and goal-setting that I have recently learned and started to implement in my personal and professional life.   

Let’s get to it!

  • Break out a big assignment into smaller chunks, and delegate where feasible.

How many of us try to do too much at once and end up overwhelming ourselves, not just at work but in our personal lives?  And not just in terms of time you allocate to complete a task, but doing tasks that maybe we don’t need to be the ones doing?  Delegation is a sign of good stewardship, not a sign of not being able to “do the job.”  Think about some tasks you do at work or at home.  Are there some tasks you should be delegating to someone else instead of doing them yourself to not only free you up to do other things you love, but also empower others so they have a sense of ownership in something?  

  • Stop to pause and celebrate milestones instead of just rushing through to the next thing.

Too often we only punish ourselves for what we did not do or did not do well and do not reward ourselves for what we do get done.  Sometimes the reward itself is getting the task done, but we do a disservice to ourselves when we never stop and reflect on good things we have accomplished.  What good things have you done lately that you need to acknowledge and be thankful for?  

  • Get some rest that is more than a nap.

Resting is more than taking a long nap.  We need a spiritual retreat from the demands of everyday to unplug, reflect, and meditate.  In today’s world of being constantly connected by technology, it can be hard to unplug from work or social media — especially when we are expected to always be “on.”   In fact, we may even feel guilty or selfish for logging off to spend quiet time alone with ourselves.   This is where having boundaries and knowing what your priorities are come in handy.  If your spiritual and mental rest is important to you, you will have to create boundaries for yourself and others so you can carve out that offline time.

  • Be in a community with which you can relate.

We were not created to go through life alone with no friends and no people who understand our struggles and what we are going through.  We are supposed to be in a community of people where we can be open and vulnerable and uplifted and encouraged.  Groups like GWAC and the group I founded, Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind, exist to help foster that type of community for women lawyers.

  • Free yourself of the weight of the world.

There is a brand of “Superwoman Syndrome” that is unique to black women and the cause of stress, frustration, and feelings of not measuring up to the various roles we have taken on in life.   But the reality is that we — black women lawyers, lawyers, black women, women, human beings overall — were not designed to carry the burdens of everyone we know on our shoulders.  This is important to keep in mind when setting goals.  Ask yourself; are you setting this goal because it is something you want to do or solely because you think it is what is expected of you or what other people want you to do?  Does it align with your values and priorities?  Do you feel at peace pursuing this goal?

  • Do not despise small beginnings.

As you review what you didn’t accomplish this past year, try not to be too hard on yourself for not being where you want to be yet.  True success is not measured by how fast you achieve a goal if you had to sacrifice your well-being to get there. You are doing well if you keep going and stick to your values.  Remember that the real measure is progress, not perfection!

  • Seek wise counsel.

Seeking wise counsel for a plan of action offers stability and success.  The key word being wise counsel, though, and not just telling everyone you know about your plans.  Some people will give you bad advice or discourage you from doing what you are supposed to do and encourage you to do something you’re not supposed to.  This could happen both intentionally or unintentionally.  But, when we share our goals with the right people, we get valuable feedback to help avoid pitfalls and are provided with accountability to help us stay on track when we start to veer off.  

I hope you will implement some (or all!) of these principles into your overall self-care and goal-setting process this new year, and I look forward to cheering you on in your journey!

Connect with me on LinkedIn at (let me know you saw the article!), and check out more blog posts like this one and other resources at my website,