Student loan experts shares experience and wisdom

Heather Jarvis has practiced public interest law for more than a dozen years. Beginning in 2005, Heather focused her advocacy work on reducing the financial barriers to practicing public interest law.

She has contributed to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress, and has dedicated her professional efforts to advancing public service loan forgiveness which allows recent graduates to dedicate their careers to the greater good.

No one ever told Heather Jarvis she couldn’t afford to attend Duke. 

Jarvis graduated from Duke University School of Law owing $125,000 in student loans and facing a pricey 30-year payment plan, which let her with a choice: Take the job she had been dreaming about all her life ($25,000 annual salary) or fin a get rich quick scheme. Wisely, Jarvis chose the former.

Her experience and education inspired her to help others who are facing similar struggles. 

This week at Charleston School of Law Jarvis led a Zoom presentation to educate students on student loan best practices and the facts about student loan forgiveness. 

You can watch the presentation above. We also encourage you to visit for more details. 

Key Takeaways

  • Since March of 2020, federal student loans have not accrued interest [due to the COVID pandemic]. You may look at your account and see that your interest rates are at zero, but that is temporary. Federal student loan payments are scheduled to resume on September 1.
  • If you are a graduating student or if you leave school and drop below half-time status, that launches a period that we call the grace period, which is six months for most federal loans before any payments would have been required. So, if you’re graduating this year, you wouldn’t have been required to make payments until November.
  • It’s essential that you keep your contact information up to date with your loan servicing company, but also with the United States Department of Education website. With all of the changes to student loan rules during the pandemic it important to recognize that you may need to be contacted by both the government directly.
  • Private Student Loans: It can be riskier (and expensive) to borrow using private loans. Private student loans have fixed or variable interest rates that will change over time. You want to check to see whether there is any cap on the interest rate. Normally you must meet certain conditions, like a certain number of on-time payments over a period. Read your promissory note. Because it is likely to be more expensive than federal student loan debt and it is less flexible. So, it has more potential to be problematic for you.
  • Loan forgiveness provisions: There are opportunities to postpone your obligation to pay by choosing a deferment or forbearance. Those are similar concepts of postponing. Your obligation to pay deferment is generally slightly better for borrowers.
  • The standard term of repayment for a student loan is 10 years unless it’s a consolidated loan. The standard term of repayment for consolidated loans can be up to 30 years.
  • I want to caution you about the graduated and extended repayment options. They are available. They can make sense for some borrowers, but most people are better off thinking about an income driven repayment option over the graduated or extended plans. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. Um, one is that the, the payments under the graduated and extended plans are always, at least as much as the interest that is accruing each month.
  • I encourage you to advocate for yourself. Pay attention to your loans. Ask questions until you understand. Don’t assume that all the rules will be applied in exactly the way that they should be without you advocating for yourself.


The Charleston School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school nationally recognized for its student-centric culture. Our faculty and staff are committed to preparing you for success both in the classroom and in the legal profession.

  • The Princeton Review ranks Charleston School of Law professors second in the country for faculty accessibility (2021)
  • Charleston School of Law faculty ranked among the top of The Princeton Review’s list of Best Professors in the nation (2016-2018)
  • Experiential Learning: Charleston School of Law students have access to more than 150 externship sites, creating opportunities for experiential learning in the legal field.
  • Community Service: Charleston School of Law students have performed more than 241,000 community service hours (2004-current).
  • Students have won the National Tax Moot Court Championship for seven consecutive years (2012-2018)

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