Looking deeper into the governor's loan forgiveness program

Gov. Cuomo introduced a loan forgiveness program for the state that will make some students eligible to pay nothing for their first two years out of college.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his “2015 Opportunity Agenda” four weeks ago at Albany’s Empire State Plaza Convention Center. The governor made 66 proposals including providing better assistance to New York state’s homeless population, investing in public works projects and reforming the education system.

Cuomo wants to tackle the issue of student loans with the “Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program.” According to the agenda, it “is designed to help eligible New York State residents who graduate from college and continue to live in the state to pay nothing on their student loans for the first two years out of school. This will supplement the federal Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income-based loan repayment program.”

Pay As You Earn

President Barack Obama first introduced the PAYE program in 2011 which caps Federal Direct Student Loan payments at 10 percent of a student’s income for those who graduated in 2007 or later. He signed a Presidential Memorandum in 2014 to include students who graduated before 2007. After 20 years of consistent repayment, the government will forgive the remainder of the loans.

“Get on Your Feet” eligibility

In order to be eligible in the state’s loan forgiveness program, students must have graduated from a NY high school and college in or after the 2014-2015 academic year, enroll in the federal PAYE program, enroll in the “Get on Your Feet” program within two years of graduation, be a resident of New York State, be employed in the state, and earn less than $50,000 a year.

If passed with the April 1 budget, this program will only available to undergraduate students. The governor’s agenda expects about 7,100 graduates to enroll in the program’s first year. However, many students at Syracuse University don’t even know about the program. 

Mike Cahill, director of Syracuse University’s Career Services, says he hasn’t had any students asking about the program. He thinks it’s a great opportunity for students if they meet the eligibility requirements.

“It’s a nice little benefit for students,” Cahill said. “It might bring a little bit more interest from people who might otherwise consider going elsewhere to pursue employment.”

Cahill said Career Services will make students aware of the program, but won’t necessarily promote them to enroll.

“We will become more familiar with it and have it in our toolbox to be able to talk to students about,” Cahill said.

Cahill stressed the importance of making students aware of the program, but says Career Services won’t change how they help students find jobs after they graduate.

While this is valuable information for the outgoing senior class and incoming freshman class, sophomore Joelle Porush thinks this program should have been available last year.

“I think for a lot of people that left the state, they would have probably stayed knowing they would get their college loans more taken care of if they were to stay,” Porush said.

Despite being ineligible for the program, sophomore Jenya Rubman agrees. The Chicago native says New York isn’t a bad place to be.

“I think it’s a good deal to get your loans taken care of, or helped taken care of if you’re here,” Rubman said.

“It’s kind of a benefit of staying close to home, and if people knew that before coming to college, it’d make a big difference in where people picked to go to college.”

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