Local teacher denied student loan forgiveness 4 times despite meeting requirements

Published: Aug. 21, 2019 at 6:51 PM CDT
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After 19 years of teaching kindergarten at Mosinee Elementary School, Crystal Zastrow is still questioning why her Teacher Loan Forgiveness application continues to be denied.

“The government continuously tells me ‘no’ and they continuously come up with a different reason so it's very frustrating.”

According to the Department of Education, there are two types of forgiveness programs. If you work for the government or non-profit organization you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Otherwise, those who work in the field of education could qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting or wanting anything for free, but I do feel that every teacher should apply for loan forgiveness. Anyone that qualifies should apply,” added Zastrow.

After graduating with her Bachelor's of Science degree for Early Childhood Education from UW-Stout in 2000, she was hired as a full-time elementary teacher with the Mosinee School District with $29,000 in student loan debt. She never had to take out any private student loans to apply.

One of the qualifications for the Teachers Loan Forgiveness Program is that you must work for a Title 1 school district for at least five years to qualify and at the time of submission. However, Zastrow says she applied four times and was denied each time. Three of those times were for a different reason.

“These programs are here for a reason, so they should try to help as many people as possible,” Zastrow said.

The first two times she applied Zatrow says she was denied because the government said her current teaching position was not a highly sought position at the time, which is required. A few years later she applied again and the reason for the denial was because she consolidated her federal student loans. However, on the application it says: ‘Any portion of Federal Direct Consolidation Loan or Federal Consolidation Loan that paid off an eligible Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Subsidized Federal Strafford Loan, or Unsubsidized Federal Strafford Loan will be eligible for forgiveness.’

“To date, I have one unsubsidized loan and one subsidized loan left to pay back. I paid $25,000 so far,” said Zastrow.

For the last 19 years, Zastrow says she has never missed her monthly payment. She did attend Graduate School which deferred her payments for a few years, but after graduation, she continued her payments. As of 2019, she has less than $5,000 left to pay back.

“The last time I applied I was told that I have two little debt to qualify but the application says ‘up to $5,000 to qualify,’ stated Zastrow.

In a roundtable discussion on student loan refinancing held in Wausau by a Student Loan Refinancing Study Task Force developed by Governor Tony Evers, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski mentioned how 98% of all applicants who apply for federal student loan forgiveness programs are denied leaving only 2% accepted.

Zastrow says even though she has less than $4,000 to pay off, she might apply again to see what the outcome will be.

For information on the Federal Student Forgiveness Loan programs