Can I Go to College for Free?

Q: Can I go to college for free?

A: According to some people, it is possible to go to college for free. But usually, these are same people who are trying to sell you something. So the real answer is: Probably not.

College is expensive. But luckily nearly ALL students qualify for some forms of financial aid.

After you complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, you may be offered free forms of aid, such as grants, scholarships, and work-study. And you may also be offered aid in the form of student loans which must be repaid.

But keep in mind that most financial aid comes in the form of student loans, which accrue interest and must be repaid after you leave school.

Student loans are not necessarily the end of the world. Borrowing for your education and your future can be a smart decision as long as you do not borrow more than you expect to make in your first year after graduation.

And on the bright side, there are programs that allow for student loan forgiveness after graduation.

For example, some people who go to work in public service programs, teaching, nursing, and medical professions may qualify for some amount of loan forgiveness.

To learn more about these opportunities contact the Financial Aid Office at the school you wish to attend. They will have more details and resources to help you make smart financial aid decisions.

What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
Through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full time by certain public service employers. Since borrowers must make 120 monthly payments on their eligible federal student loans beginning after October 1, 2007 before they qualify for the loan forgiveness, the first cancellations of loan balances will not be granted until October 2017.

What federal student loans are eligible for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
Any non-defaulted loan made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan Program) is eligible for loan forgiveness. (See below for information on how non-Direct Loans may be eligible.)

The Direct Loan Program includes the following types of loans:
- Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct Subsidized Loans)
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct Unsubsidized Loans)
- Federal Direct PLUS Loans (Direct PLUS Loans) for parents and graduate or professional students
- Federal Direct Consolidation Loans (Direct Consolidation Loans)

How can other federal student loans qualify for loan forgiveness?
Although loan forgiveness under this program is available only for loans made and repaid under the Direct Loan Program, loans made under other federal student loan programs may qualify for forgiveness if they are consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

However, only payments made on the Direct Consolidation Loan will count toward the required 120 monthly payments.
The following types of loans may be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, which include:

- Subsidized Stafford Loans
- Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
- Federal PLUS Loans - for parents and graduate or professional students
- Federal Consolidation Loans (excluding joint spousal consolidation loans)
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Certain Health Professions and Nursing Loans

NOTE: To consolidate a Federal Perkins Loan or Health Professions/Nursing Loan into the Direct Loan Program, you must also consolidate at least one FFEL Program loan or Direct Loan. If you are unsure about what kind of loans you have, you can find information about your federal student loans in the U.S. Department of Education National Student Loan Data System at http://nslds.ed.gov.