Find out if you qualify for a student loan debt forgiveness program

CHICAGO -- Over the next few weeks, students across the country will be graduating college with a diploma and student loan debt.

Consumer Reports say there may be relief ahead if you qualify for a student loan forgiveness program.

For Jessie Suren, attending college was a costly affair. She took out over $70,000 in student loans to complete her degree in Criminal Justice at La Salle University in 2010. While she was at school, her focus was on getting good grades, but not so much the finances.

"I didn't have a plan for how I was going to pay them off," Suren said. "I didn't even really know how much I'd end up borrowing, so it was something I just didn't worry about until after graduating."

Just a few years after getting her degree, Jessie's student debt ballooned to a total of $90,000.

Jessie isn't alone. Today in the United States, more than 44 million borrowers collectively owe a total of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

"The reality is that more than half of college graduates today have to borrow money to pay for school, and some of those people really struggle to pay their loans back," said Donna Rosato, Consumer Reports money editor. "The good news is that some of them may qualify for student loan forgiveness programs that would erase some or all of their debt."

A turning point for Jessie was when she started researching these programs.

At that time, Jessie's mother, who took out a federal loan for her, was diagnosed with a bone disease that forced her to go on disability. After submitting the proper paperwork, about $45,000 of Jessie's loan was completely forgiven.

"There are more than 100 federal and state-based loan forgiveness programs," Rosato said. "They have very specific requirements, but if you make regular payments over a certain period of time, your loans may be forgiven."

But while millions of borrowers could qualify for loan-forgiveness programs, only a fraction of those eligible take advantage of them. That's why you need to do your research, like what Jessie did.

To see if you qualify for a federal student loan forgiveness program, check with the U.S. Department of Education website and The Institute of Student Loan Advisors website, which includes state-based programs.

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