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- Before the pandemic, Kevin Nadal was paying $1,000 a month for his federal student loans.
- He applied for PSLF and got $125,000 of student loan forgiveness.
- Now free of large monthly payments, Nadal will redirect his monthly payments towards building his children’s future.
Kevin Nadal incurred six-figure student loan debt to pursue his Ph.D. at Columbia University in the early 2000s. “I made that decision when I was 24 years old because I knew being in a Ph.D. of color focused on issues related to racial equity through the lens of psychology, it was very rare. But it was the biggest financial risk,” adal tells Insider.
Today, the 44-year-old is a distinguished professor who has had a successful 12-year career at the City University of New York. His investment paid off professionally, but Nadal felt the pain of years of giving up a percentage of his paycheck for student loans each month.
According to records seen by Insider, Nadal owed $893 per month on his student loan bill but rounded it up to pay $1,000 per month. He says, “At some point, I just got used to it. It just became an accepted part of my life.”
Nadal found out about PSLF early on but was told he was on the wrong payment plan
After his second year teaching at CUNY, Nadal learned about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. PSLF forgives student loans for public school teachers and other nonprofit workers after 120 “qualified payments” (about 10 years of consistent payments).
“I was very lucky. I didn’t intentionally look for a nonprofit position. When I heard about PSLF, I said, ‘Great, I’ll do that.'”
Nadal says he put his loans into forbearance for the first few years after school, then started paying the minimum.
In his fifth year of making payments, Nadal called his student loan servicer to make sure he was on the right track. Like many others who applied for PSLF, he was told that he was on the wrong payment plan. None of the payments he had been making over the past five years counted toward the 120 qualifying payments needed for loan forgiveness.
You changed an eligible plan after that. But, he says, “I was devastated, angry, frustrated, really desperate. As a person of color, as a queer person, you never expect systems to work for you.”
After learning about the temporary PSLF waiver, Nadal was still hopeless
Nadal kept making the minimum payments on his student loans for years, though he still had no faith that PSLF would actually work for him. In early 2022, he learned of the temporary PSLF waiver that allows even more payments to count toward the 120 payments eligible for his student loan forgiveness.
Generally, only full and timely payments made on a qualified income-driven repayment plan count toward the 120 eligible payments. However, under the exemption, which expires on October 31, the following payments are now counted:
- Forbearance periods of 12 consecutive months or more, or 36 non-consecutive forbearance periods
- Late payments and partial payments
- Payments from non-qualified payment plans
- Months spent in deferment
Nadal was not feeling hopeful or optimistic about the resignation, although he knew he would probably qualify. Her husband, Kaleo Nadal, was in charge of filling out the paperwork. “He actually talked to my manager and got verbal confirmation from people that this was going to work. Even then, I said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.'”
Soon, Nadal received emails that his application was being processed. “Then I got one that said, ‘Your application for him has been accepted.’ And I’m still not celebrating. Until I see all the zeros in my account, then I’ll believe it.” Finally, weeks later, her student loan account showed a zero balance and she received a letter saying that $124,572 of her student loans had been fully forgiven.
Nadal shared a screenshot of his zero student loan balance with his 13,000 Instagram followers. “I felt relieved, like a really huge load had been lifted off my shoulders. I was finally able to breathe. I’m not going to be thinking about this debt forever,” she says.
Nadal is going to redirect his monthly payments to invest in the future of his children
During the pandemic payment hiatus, Nadal got a taste of what it would be like to have his student loans forgiven. “I was like, ‘Where is all this money coming from? Oh, I’m not going to take $1,000 out of my paycheck every month. I’m not going to pay off my student loans.” I felt that.”
Now that he has freed up $1,000 from his monthly budget, Nadal plans to save and invest for his two children. He says, “Before, it was a different feeling because I only had to pay off my student loans and couldn’t save any money. Now I’m planning for my children’s future, thinking about ways we can invest and create more financial stability and generational wealth for them.” that I really didn’t have.