Amazing, right? That's what I thought. Then, unfortunately, I hit the bureaucracy.
The first thing I learned was the there is a big difference in how the two types of loans are forgiven. While Perkins loans are lower, they actually get cancelled quicker through chunking. The Stafford loans are a lump-sum cancellation done at the end of the five years. Some might think this doesn't matter that much, but since many are paying back their loans while waiting for cancelling, the difference can be substantial.
For my Perkins loan, I submitted the official form year after year (making sure to retain scanned copies before mailing it in). It was through this process I learned that they are very serious about their date formats. The first time I submitted, I had written "April 15, 1985" for my birthday instead of 04/15/1985 and it was rejected. I was so surprised when it happened but their bureaucratic machine demanded consistency and my writing in the name of the month must have confused them so.
Luckily, after I learned quickly, I just submitted the same form at around the same time every year and after five years of partial cancellations, I received a letter in the mail saying I had fulfilled my full Perkins requirements. During that time I never had to postpone loan payments because they were never requested. When using this method, they automatically put the payments on hold until you have the entirety forgiven (or paid off).
My Stafford loans were the biggest headache - and mostly because I taught in Philadelphia for four years (in three different schools). First: they were not paid off in chunks and the payments did become due six months after I graduated. Instead of paying, however (since I knew even with the interest I would still have all debts forgiven after five years) I elected to go into forbearance. This allowed me to not have to pay the loan off immediately, but did capitalize any interest gained over the five years. It added a few hundred dollars to my bill at the end, but since it was below the threshold for me, I was fine with that.
Second: the big headache came in verifying my teaching in Philadelphia. I first learned that to fill in the Stafford forms was a very specific process. I received a couple of rejections due to missing check boxes and/or incorrect date submissions (despite me actually putting the date in correct format). It was truly aggravating.
The key thing that each person needs to find out is what the District definition of "Chief Administration Officer" is. In Philadelphia, that was supposed to be a centralized person who did it for the entire teaching population. Unfortunately, when I was applying for this program in 2014, no one had that job. So, I had to get the superintendent of schools to write a letter verifying that he was the CAO of Philadelphia at the time. With one more added year in NYC where my principal signed the document and I received a verification of employment through the NYC DOE forms, I thought I was good to go.
As it turns out, the one last thing I actually needed to do was to get the name and title of the verification person in NYC to sign something on the front of a letter, instead of the second page. That's right - I got rejected because the information required was on the second page of the letter! I found this so aggravating but followed through and eventually got my Stafford loans forgiven as well.
This process is the most aggravated one I've had to go through in the public sector thus far. I think it is way to hard to verify that I was a teacher in a Title I school and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program seems to be there in name only to a certain extent. I only wish that it becomes easier soon to encourage more teachers to apply and get needed money they often use on their classrooms anyway.