Debt Relief Triumph

More than $80K in student debt forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness

There was a time, not so long ago, that Nebraska NEA Director and Omaha Education Association Board of Directors member Edward Ventura owed more in student loan debt than he did for the mortgage on his house in Bellevue, Nebraska.

Ventura is a 24-year veteran educator serving as a Library Media Specialist at Forest Station Elementary School in Omaha. Ventura was the first generation in his Latino family to attend college, so he navigated the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on his own.

“My parents didn't have much money. So, for my undergraduate, I applied for and received a Federal Pell Grant,” said Ventura.

But the grant didn't cover all of Ventura's expenses while attending an out-of-state college at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. To help cover costs, Ventura took out student loans.

“I never really thought about how much money I was borrowing. I just signed the paperwork and got back to my classes and homework,” he said.

Ventura graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications with an emphasis in print journalism in 1994. He went on to earn his endorsement in secondary education and eventually moved home to Nebraska and began teaching.  

Navigating Changes

Ventura earned his master’s in curriculum and instruction from Peru State College in 2007 and began teaching at Omaha Public Schools’ Castelar Elementary  as a technology teacher.

“Technology is everywhere in education—and technology is always evolving. I was always looking for avenues within the ed-tech field to stay on pace with my students’ learning and that’s how I ended up earning a second master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha through its school library program,” Ventura explained.

With the rising cost of higher education, Ventura found himself under a mountain of student debt. And he’s not alone—nearly half of all educators took out student loans to pay for college. Among them, one in seven still owes more than $105,000, according to National Education Association (NEA) research. Ventura estimated he had around $120,000 in student debt.

“The interest just kept building and building. I felt like every time I paid, I was still two payments behind,” he said.

Roadblocks to Relief

Due to economic challenges during the pandemic, most borrowers received student loan payment pauses. In the years following the pandemic, the federal relief plan has undergone several iterations through actions of the Biden-Harris Administration, Congress and even the U.S. Supreme Court.  Through this confusion, scammers have targeted loan holders, adding to the chaos.  Amid this confusion, Ventura turned to his professional association for help.

Patience is Key

Ventura sought loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). The program was created in recognition of the many ways public service workers—like public educators—give back to their communities. Under PSLF, any remaining balance of federal student debt would be forgiven for workers who provided 10 years of public service while making 120 monthly payments on their federal student loans. The premise was easy enough to understand but the application process was tedious and plagued by mismanagement. Ventura found PSLF support through the NSEA and NEA Member Benefits. NEA Member Benefits Affiliate Relations Specialist Susan Estes encouraged Ventura to use NEA’s Student Debt Navigator and answered his questions through the application process. Ventura applied for loan forgiveness through a company called Savi, which is free for one year for NEA/NSEA members.

“Having Susan available to answer my questions was very helpful and then from there it was just a waiting game with the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. “They had to consolidate some of my loans and that process took time. Patience is key.”

Debt Relief Triumph

Good news for Ventura came in the form of an e-mail and then in formal letters.

“I had $40,000 forgiven and then they forgave another $40,000 for a total of $80,000,” said Ventura. “It was a huge relief. I thought I would die with my student loan debt but what I have left is much more manageable.”

Ventura is an active member of the Omaha Education Association and is currently serving as a Nebraska representative on the NEA Board of Directors. As a leader, Ventura touts the program and his personal loan forgiveness as a benefit of NSEA membership.

“Anytime I have a chance to talk with new or potential members, I tell them about my experience with PSLF, NSEA and NEA Member Benefits.”

NSEA Can Help

NSEA advocates for and has achieved meaningful student loan relief at the state and federal levels. During the 2022 Legislative Session, NSEA supported the expansion of the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Program which is a forgivable loan program for current educators pursuing master’s degrees or endorsements in shortage areas in Nebraska. NSEA also supported the Teach in Nebraska Today Act which was adopted in 2022 and implemented in 2023. It is a $5 million state repayment program providing qualifying teachers with up to $5,000 annually for five years.

Members are encouraged to contact your NSEA Organizational Specialist and watch for updates in future publications of The Voice to learn more about student loan forgiveness in Nebraska. To learn more about NEA Student Debt

Navigator visit or email NEA Member Benefits Affiliate Relations Specialist Susan Estes at