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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Clarifications

  • We are currently anticipating a date of Thursday, February 29, 2024, to open the 27k Student Loan Repayment Program application window on GEMS/MARS. The application window will close at 11:50 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Please be sure to periodically check the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage for more information. On the website, we also have a downloadable Word template of the application questions and structure to assist in preparing for the application itself.

  • Besides making regular updates to the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage, we will also feature developments about the Student Loan Repayment Program through our Educationally Speaking newsletter. If you have not already signed up, you can use the MDE newsletter sign-up link. Be sure to select the “Educationally Speaking” newsletter under the listings for the “Educator Excellence” when prompted to select from a list of options. In addition, please follow the MDE’s Office of Educator Excellence on Facebook.

  • No. Subdivision (3)(f)(4) of MCL 388.1627k states that eligible district staff members will remain eligible for other student loans when receiving funds under this program.

  • After award amounts are determined and distributed based on the criteria listed in the grant application, the award amount will remain the same for the duration of the program or the total amount of the eligible participant's monthly federal student loan payment. Thus, applicants would not be eligible for an increase or adjustment in our award amount for participants, regardless of the change in their assigned band in the opportunity index, as described in MCL 388.1631a.

  • If the employment status of a program participant changes in such a way that the participant is no longer working at least 32 hours per week at their district, then the Student Loan Repayment Program monthly payments that are made to the educator must immediately stop. In addition, the district must communicate this information in their annual report and, if necessary, send the funds back to MDE. 

  • It is up to the districts to determine the eligibility of their staff members using the following criteria: 

    • participating in a federal student loan forgiveness program as described in subsection (3) of MCL 388.1627k, also found on the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage;
    • meeting federal loan and payment plan requirements as described in subsection (3) of MCL 388.1627k; and
    • working 32 hours or more per week at a district or intermediate district in a role in which the individual works directly with pre-K to grade 12 students.
     
  • Yes, there are examples listed in MCL 388.1627k, and on the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage. The main criteria is whether the district defines that employee’s work as having direct contact with pre-K to grade 12 students.

  • A district will receive the full $200 per applicant (or $400 in the case of districts located in Band 6 of the opportunity index) automatically. Districts must pay the eligible district staff member an amount equal to their current loan amount, but not more than the allowed amount of the Student Loan Repayment Program of $200 or $400. All excess monies (the difference between the actual loan amount and the maximum, if the actual loan amount is less) must be kept by the district to adjust to changes in a participant’s loan amount. All excess monies kept by the district and not otherwise allocated to participants will revert back to the State of Michigan after each annual cycle; see the FAQ response below.

  • For any foreseeable further cycle or cohort of this program, excess monies not distributed by school districts will be combined with remaining monies to determine whether or not to continue funding eligible participants at the $200/$400 level monthly. If there is not enough money, the remaining money will be prorated per month for the participants who have been identified by their school districts.

  • While the MDE cannot provide tax-related advice, it recommends that school districts stay in touch with their certified, trained tax professionals or tax preparers to get the final word on tax implications arising from grant reimbursements. This includes understanding how federal tax resources such as IRS Publication 970 relate to their local fiscal policies.

  • Ultimately, the responsibility of identifying the participants for the program and verifying all data submitted for the application rests on the district. Since this is a program funded from a budget allocation appearing in state law (MCL 388.1627k), it is subject to the same rules for monitoring and auditing like any other official work project that provides funds to schools. Subdivisions (3)(a) through (3)(f) are the best and most authoritative guides for participant criteria.

  • No. The only limit is the amount of allocation provided by MCL 388.1627k, which is $225 million. If at any time the total amounts of payments exhaust this limit, payments to approved participants will be pro-rated equally. There is no state limit to the number of participants each district can apply for. However, the district must only apply for individuals who meet the eligibility criteria for this program. 

  • Yes, that is exactly the method of application as described in the law (MCL 388.1627k); this application is open to districts and intermediate districts only, not individuals. Districts list their eligible participants on an application to the MDE, and they are funded with the appropriate amount ($200, or $400 for districts located within Band 6 of the opportunity index) per applicant. Individual staff members who learn about this program will need to communicate with their employer to request that their district apply on their behalf.

  • Each district is considered to be running their own Student Loan Repayment Program with responsibilities of creating written policies for program administration, communicating to participants, recordkeeping, and management of funds. While we cannot speculate on the ramifications of misused funds or inaccurate reporting we can say that since this is a program funded from a budget allocation appearing in state law (MCL 388.1627k), it is subject to the same rules for monitoring and auditing like any other official work project that provides funds to schools.

  • Yes, that is encouraged, and it would represent a positive gesture of cooperation that would benefit not only the individual program participants, but the district and its learners in general. While it still must be the district who makes the official application, asking a local educator association for assistance in direction communications to members and identifying potential participants would be appropriate activities for the association. One caveat is to remember that the Student Loan Repayment Program is available to any school employee who works closely with pre-K to grade 12 students (per examples listed in MCL 388.1627k) and that not all of these types of educators are represented by associations, and not in all districts.

  • Applicants may only apply on behalf of their currently employed district staff members who are eligible per the description provided in MCL 388.1627k. However, the program can be thought of as an incentive for recruitment in that the district is one that provides this additional benefit for its employees, and could potentially add participants on a later cycle, or cohort, given further guidance from the MDE.

  • Unfortunately, no, given the clear language found in subdivision (8)(b) in MCL 388.1627k. It is not that the work of those educators is not important; it is that this is the definition provided in the law authorizing this program.

  • Yes, this is currently listed on the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage, under “Information for Applicants.” Please click on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness webpage link for the full updated details. 

  • Unfortunately, once the participant list is submitted in the application, it cannot be added to with new participants, for example those who were hired after the application submission, or those who were mistakenly not identified as participants but who would otherwise be eligible. However, the MDE is currently considering how and when to open a second cohort following the first. As there is no guarantee of this, please be sure to diligently identify every possible eligible participant possible at the time of making the first application.

  • Unfortunately, no, due to the restrictions in MCL 388.1627k. It is expected that districts would include a payment method to the participant that works on existing payroll procedures, or which does not significantly impact the workload of financial office staff.

  • No. These payments are considered reimbursements for student loan debt and are not reported to ORS. Accordingly, they are not eligible to be included in an FAC, and the employer should not report it on DTL2 Wage and Service or DTL4 Defined Contributions records.

  • The total amount of allocation for this program, provided by MCL 388.1627k, is $225 million. If at any time the total amounts of payments exhaust this limit, payments to approved participants will be pro-rated equally.

  • In this case, the participant would report this to the employer, who would cease payments by the next month. The employer would then report this change of status on official reporting to the MDE on the next cycle.

  • Unfortunately, you cannot. A clear requirement of the program is that the participant is currently enrolled in one of the federal loan forgiveness programs listed on the Student Loan Repayment Program webpage, and educators who are not able to join these loan forgiveness programs are simply not eligible to be participants.

  • We’re sorry to say that they are not—if they are the traditional Parent Plus loans and are not otherwise consolidated into the Direct Consolidation Loans (which do qualify, according to the Student Loan Repayment Program website, under “Information for Applicants”). This is because unconsolidated Parent Plus loans represent the assistance that was given to another member of the household and are thus not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs. Accordingly, they would not fit under the requirements of this program.

  • According to the wording provided by MCL 388.1627k, the law does not restrict individuals from participating as a contracted employee if they meet the other requirements listed in Section (3)(a). However, a clear requirement in this section is enrollment in the PSLF program. While we cannot provide guidance on qualifying employment for PSLF, we recommend that individuals review the Federal Student Aid Public Service Loan Forgiveness website for information about eligibility for the program. Note that if the individual is not working directly for a qualifying employer to be eligible for PSLF, they cannot receive funds through this section. 

  • Currently, we anticipate a February 29 opening to the application window. On the Student Loan Repayment Program website, there is a downloadable Word template of the application questions and structure to assist in preparing for the application itself.

  • The requirements governing participant participation set forth in Section (3) and Section (8)(b) of MCL 388.1627k must be true at the time of application. So, if that person is approved at the time you make the application, and this is an eligible payment plan listed on our Student Loan Repayment Program site, then yes indeed that would work.

  • There is no expectation within the 32-hour minimum per week requirement that it include summer vacation or summer school programming, unless the district is year-round or balanced calendar in nature. For those districts that are not on these calendars, they should only use the regular school year as a gauge in determining the 32 hour per week minimum.

  • At the time of application, if that staff member is working 32 hours or more, this would conform to the eligibility component mentioned in Section (8)(b) of MCL 388.1627k.

    However, note that elsewhere in the law, it is the responsibility of the district to ensure that all participants conform to other eligibility requirements, including that “an eligible participant must only receive funding through the program if the eligible participant continues to meet the criteria of an eligible participant.” In other words, once this participant is no longer working 32 hours a week or more, the district must stop making payments to that participant. See the FAQ above that mentions educators who stop working at least 32 hours a week.

    Be aware that there is no current re-application or re-joining process in place, which means participants like the one described may be permanently dropped from payments once their work schedule no longer supports working at least 32 hours.

    It would remain the responsibility of the district to keep careful records on participants who were eligible at the time of application but then at some later point do not meet all eligibility requirements.

  • While we do not have a firm estimate for when the first of the payments will arrive to applying districts, we can say that the law recognizes that the fiscal year for which this appropriation of funds was made began on October 1, 2023. Thus, participants listed on a district’s application who have paid student loan payments starting October 1, 2023, will receive offsetting payments (again, to a maximum of $200/$400 per MCL 388.1627k) back to that date. The application on GEMS/MARS, and the Word application template available on the Student Loan Repayment Program site, will ask applicants to list the number of payments each participant made since October 1, 2023. This may result in the first payment made to participants to be larger than $200/$400, and applicants should plan accordingly.

  • Yes, this is allowed. ISDs may apply on behalf of the districts in their service area, pursuant to their agreements with those districts. 

  • Yes, these participants may be included, because a current $0 payment does not ensure that it will not increase at some later point. As long as the district verifies loans fall within an eligible loan type and are enrolled in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (see www.studentaid.gov/pslf), then the district can include participants who currently have $0 payments in anticipation that their monthly loan payment may be greater that $0 at a later date. The application on GEMS/MARS will accept a loan payment amount of zero.

    Please note that a loan payment of $0 would result in the staff member receiving $0 under this program, because the amount of the payment to the participant cannot exceed their current payment. If and when the payment increases, the participant is responsible for communicating this with their district, following any verification procedures the district has in place. The district would then be responsible for keeping records and adjusting payments accordingly.