New rules help teachers, others wipe out debt
Erin Shea McCann graduated from Seattle University last year with a law degree and $47,000 in student loans. She also had $7,000 in credit-card...
Seattle Times higher education reporter
Paying back the high cost of college
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A look at one recent college graduate's debt.
Erin Shea McCann graduated from Seattle University last year with a law degree and $47,000 in student loans. She also had $7,000 in credit-card debt.
Still, McCann found a way to successfully juggle the comparatively low-paying legal youth work she's passionate about with her student-loan commitments.
She won a two-year fellowship to pursue public-interest law through a nonprofit group called Equal Justice Works, which pays her $44,000 salary at Columbia Legal Services. She's currently working on the settlement in a class-action suit to improve the foster-care system.
And she doesn't need to pay anything from her own pocket toward her loans, if she so chooses.
Due to the nature of her work, she gets loan contributions from Equal Justice, Columbia Legal and Seattle U. If she sticks with public-interest law, she likely will qualify for a federal program that would wipe out any remaining federal loans after 10 years.
Students who want to pursue public-interest work in their chosen field can apply for a number of competitive grants and fellowships.
Under amendments to the Higher Education Act passed into law this year, the federal government has significantly expanded its loan-forgiveness program in areas of "national need." Teachers, engineers, law-enforcement officers, even dentists and medical researchers can qualify for loan-forgiveness programs.
Among the big winners in the bill are public defenders and state or local prosecutors. Those who remain employed for at least three years can get their loans repaid by the federal government at a rate of up to $10,000 per year, to a maximum of $60,000.
Despite the help with her loans, McCann still faces a tight financial situation. Her husband, a teacher, is in graduate school, and the couple expects to take on another $40,000 in loans before he's back earning money in the classroom.
When they married this year, McCann bought a dress off Craigslist and they held the ceremony on the beach. They rent a basement apartment.
"We went into this with our eyes wide open. We both feel a conviction about the work we do," McCann says. "That doesn't mean it's not difficult when we watch our friends. We see them buying a house, and that's a long way off for us."
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or email@example.com
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