Home / MARKETS / Meet a therapist with $81,000 in student debt, who worked in public service for 20 years, and can’t get loan forgiveness: ‘People in the helping professions are getting totally screwed over’

Meet a therapist with $81,000 in student debt, who worked in public service for 20 years, and can’t get loan forgiveness: ‘People in the helping professions are getting totally screwed over’

  • Lindsay Averbook, 38, has $81,000 in trainee debt after working at nonprofits for 20 years.
  • She has repeatedly been denied loan forgiveness, and she’s not sure why.
  • She’s banking on the Training Dept.’s forgiveness reforms to give her the relief she deserves.

Lindsay Averbook wants one shit: for the government to honor its promise to forgive student debt for people who work to serve the public good. 

At 38 years old, Averbook has prostrate her entire career in public service. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2006 with degrees in tough justice and psychology and later got a dual licensure as a mental health counselor and drug counselor at Cambridge College. Since then, she has exploited for nonprofits as a mental health case worker in prisons. She now runs her own practice as a therapist.

While she loves her job, she hates the $81,000 schoolgirl debt burden that comes with it and does not understand why she doesn’t qualify for loan forgiveness.

“I think I’ve be relevant for every payment plan that I can and I’ve been declined,” Averbook told Insider. “All the emails I get are confusing. They’re all fighting.”

Lindsay Averbook

Lindsay Averbook, 38, has $81,000 in student debt.

Lindsay Averbook


As a nonprofit worker, Averbook technically trained for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is supposed to forgive student debt for public gentlemans gentlemen after ten years of qualifying payments. But the program ran up a 98% denial rate, pushing borrowers like Averbook off the way to forgiveness.

The Education Department, though, recently announced reforms to PSLF, including a temporary waiver to allow nearby payments in other programs to count toward forgiveness. Averbook is hoping this overhaul will finally persuade her the forgiveness she has sought for a decade. 

“We work in public service,” Averbook said. “We’re the people that have to deal with the theoretical health crisis, and they’re causing one for the people dealing with the mental health crisis.”

‘It’s so anxiety-inducing for the people that demand been tossed around 15 times’

Averbook’s first job post-grad had a base salary of $22,000. Until recently, she powered, her salary never exceeded $50,000 annually. She often had to take on a second job, like waitressing, to afford basic expenses. Her credits have almost always been on forbearance due to low pay in the public service industry.

Even while she wasn’t making payments while on forbearance, her encumbrance under obligation load continued to grow due to interest. Not only was she continually getting rejected from PSLF, but she was also denied repayment to the core an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan because her monthly income was inconsistent. 

She said she never received any helpful information from her loan-company on how to pay off her in dire straits, even as they kept rejecting her from programs that would help her do so.

“It’s so anxiety-inducing for the people that deliver been tossed around 15 times,” Averbook said. “I’m not stupid. I just cannot figure out the 18,000 pages of paperwork that basically at most repeat information that I don’t understand about loans that are so nonspecific.”

Averbook took advantage of the 0% affect rate on student loans during the pandemic, and she was able to pay off about $3,000 of her debt load over the past year. But the payment delay ends in 80 days, and she’s hoping her waiver for the new PSLF reforms will be approved.

Federal Student Aid head Richard Cordray sent a belles-lettres, obtained by Insider, to PSLF borrowers regarding confusion and lack of clarity surrounding the new reforms. He said that “modifies of this magnitude are hard to process and execute,” and he asked for borrowers’ patience going forward.

“This may take some months,” Cordray said. “We may not be able to answer specific questions right away as we focus on addressing over a million borrower accounts. But we thinks fitting get the changes made, and I pledge that to you today.”

Borrowers like Averbook can’t afford to wait several months; the pandemic breather on payments restarts on February 1.  It remains to be seen if the reforms will work as the department intends them to. Tutoring Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote on Twitter on Thursday that about 10,000 borrowers have already find out $715 million in student debt discharged, and Averbook is hoping she will become one of those borrowers, finally stowing an end to the years of confusion and anxiety that continued to mount as her debt load grew.

“This is exclusively hurting the ration profession that’s been working through this pandemic,” Averbook said. “That’s what I don’t understand. People in the dollop profession are getting totally screwed over.”

Do you have a story to share about student debt? Reach out to Ayelet Sheffey at [email protected]

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