The student loan hack you don’t know about…

I keep hearing about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. How many payments do you have to make for your debt to be forgiven and what field of employment do you need to be working in? — Alicia KM on Facebook
Alicia, it depends where you end up working. Are you planning on working for a nonprofit or the government? If so, that’s a good first step.

The program you’re hearing about is designed to help ease the burden of skyrocketing tuition costs while encouraging graduates to enter low-paying but socially important “Main Street” jobs — like teachers, firefighters, nurses, librarians, court clerks, public defenders and EMTs.
Full-time employees of certain nonprofits also qualify. So you may be eligible even if the role you’re in — say accounting, clerical, or tech — might not strictly be considered “public service.” The key is working for a qualified nonprofit or government organization. About a quarter of the U.S. workforce does, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal government’s consumer watchdog.
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Still, your debt won’t be forgiven immediately. First, you have to make 10 years’ worth of payments — on time — while working in public service. If you’re approved, whatever federal debt you have left is eligible to be forgiven.
Under current law, the debt forgiven is tax-free. The program was passed by Congress in 2007, so the first batch of borrowers will be eligible for forgiveness starting in 2017.