New bill could make it easier to forgive student loans for public servants
(NEXSTAR) – For 15 years, a federal program has existed to provide public workers like teachers, law enforcement and those who work for nonprofits with student loan forgiveness. Still, the overall approval rating of applicants is low.
Lawmakers now hope to change the effectiveness of the program with a new bill.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, or PSLF, was created in 2007 to help some employees by forgiving their student loans after 120 payments over 10 years. According to a September report from the Student Borrower Protection Center, the number of applicants whose loans have actually been forgiven is small: of the 1.3 million borrowers who apply for debt relief through the PSLF, only 1 in 5 are on track to receive relief by 2026.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced a change that temporarily waives specific PSLF requirements to provide borrowers with credit toward loan forgiveness, regardless of their federal loan type or they had been enrolled in a specific payment plan, as long as they consolidated their debt into a direct loan before the waiver expired.
Before the waiver, borrowers had to have a specific federal loan – a direct loan – to be eligible for the PSLF. Borrowers could consolidate their debt into direct loans for PSLF, but any payments made on the loans prior to consolidation were not counted in the required tally.
This waiver is currently due to expire after October 31, 2022, meaning eligible borrowers have less than four months to apply. Richard Cordray, the head of Federal Student Aid, said at a conference earlier this year that if he pushed for the PSLF waiver to be extended, President Biden might not have the executive authority to approve such a waiver. decision.
Instead, some lawmakers hope to make the temporary changes brought about by the waiver permanent while enacting additional reforms to the program “to permanently address the concerns of PSLF applicants.”
In a recently introduced bill dubbed the “Simplifying and Strengthening the PSLF Act,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) proposes halving the time it takes to get relief by reducing the number of payments needed to qualify for PSLF relief from 120 over 10 years to 60 over five years for borrowers working with an eligible employer.
If passed, the bill would include all previous payments made on borrower loans – regardless of loan type, payment plan or whether payments were made in full or on time – towards the payments necessary for the relief of the PSLF. These guidelines are largely already in place under the temporary waiver that will expire in the fall.
Courtney’s bill would also expand access to the PSLF for active duty military personnel and Peace Corp volunteers whose loans have been suspended while serving. Currently, some loan deferrals are not eligible for PSLF relief.
Additionally, under Courtney’s bill, parents with PLUS loans — also known as the Parental Loan for Undergraduate Students — or couples who have jointly consolidated their loans into a federal student loan Family Education, or FFEL, would be allowed to re-consolidate their loans into a direct loan. Loan, which would then be eligible for the PSLF.
On Thursday, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed sweeping changes to the federal student loan system, including a permanent modification to the PSLF that would allow more payments to qualify for the program, including partial, lump sum payments. and late. It would also allow particular types of deferments and abstentions to count for the PSLF, and it would create a formal reconsideration process for applicants who were denied access to the program.
Brad Dress contributed to this report.
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