Jessica Buck got some welcome news when she logged into her federal student loan account March 30: Her $275,000 loan balance had officially been wiped out four days earlier under the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Jessica Buck

Buck, a 2010 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law, has been working as a public defender in Danville, Kentucky, for the past decade and making payments on the $179,000 in loans she took out for law school. (The amount increased over time due to interest, though she paid nearly $26,000 toward them.) Under PSLF, which was created in 2007 to encourage people to pursue public service careers, federal loan borrowers who work in qualifying jobs and make qualifying payments on their loans for 10 years will have their remaining balance forgiven. (Monthly payments are capped at a percentage of the borrower’s income.) But actually obtaining that forgiveness has proven difficult for the earliest participants in the program. According to the most recent information available from the U.S. Department of Education, fewer than 3% of those who have applied for PSLF have been approved.

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