Will My Firefighting in Prison Help With Student Loan Forgiveness?


Dear Steve,

Have/had over 30k in federal student loan debt unresolved, went to prison for almost 8 years, fought wildland fires for 3.5 of those prison years as a part of the CA inmate firefighter program, just got out 4 months ago.

Because I was in prison for almost 8 years, am I eligible for some kind of retroactive deferment, interest forgiveness, or general debt forgiveness? Thank you for any help you are able to provide.



Dear Grant,

Are you thinking of exploring more opportunities with Cal Fire now that you are out? Some of said that their time with the inmate program has opened doors for full-time employment on release.

There is no forgiveness for incarceration but if you had been on an income-driven repayment plan while in prison, your payment would have been $0 per month and you would have remained current on your accounts.

If you are in default on your federal loans right now, you can get on an income-driven repayment plan if you do get current through a one-time rehabilitation of your loan(s).

I don’t know if your time working with Cal Fire would count towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). That would require some more investigation but unless you were current on regular payments or an income-driven repayment plan, then the time does not count towards the 120-payment forgiveness. But then again the PSLF program is such a mess it is unclear how many are actually being granted forgiveness.


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Steve Rhode
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