Update: The Biden administration announced huge changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program on Wednesday morning.
The White House this week confirmed that the Biden administration will be implementing significant changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and a formal announcement outlining potentially sweeping reforms is imminent.
For years, the PSLF program has suffered from confusing eligibility criteria, poor oversight by the Department of Education, uneven implementation by the Department’s contracted loan servicers, and dismal approval rates. The initial approval rate for the program was only 1% in 2017, and has only improved to 2% according to the Department’s recent data.
Advocates have been calling on the Biden administration to dramatically reform the PSLF program. Last month, a coalition of over 200 organizations advocating for student loan borrowers and public servants submitted a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging him to automatically cancel the federal student loan debt for all borrowers who have completed 10 or more years of public service employment, regardless of their compliance with the opaque requirements of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. “Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, made a promise more than a decade ago that public service workers who choose to give back to their communities and our country wouldn’t be locked in a lifetime of debt… This promise has been broken,” wrote the coalition.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated that the Biden administration will be issuing a series of executive orders designed to relax the requirements of the PSLF program. This initiative would be parallel to efforts by the administration to enact more permanent changes to the PSLF program through the negotiated rulemaking process, which just got underway this week, as well.
“Fixing this program has been a priority for this administration from the first day,” said Psaki. She suggested that the upcoming changes to PSLF will allow borrowers to get their payments counted towards loan forgiveness, “regardless of the loan program in which the payments were made.” Currently, PSLF eligibility is limited to only certain types of federal student loans, and certain types of repayment plans.
Psaki’s comments follow an earlier story by NPR, suggesting that the Department of Education may provide a one-year window for borrowers with rejected PSLF payments to get those payments counted towards the 120 payments that are required to obtain student loan forgiveness through the PSLF program. While this falls short of automatic widespread student loan forgiveness, the changes could allow for thousands of rejected borrowers to regain eligibility.
An announcement by the Education Department providing more details on the PSLF changes could come as soon as tomorrow.
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