The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday changes to its Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that will move thousands of people closer to erasing their student debts.
The changes will help more than 550,000 borrowers make qualifying payments toward loan forgiveness, the department estimates.
The number includes 22,000 borrowers with consolidated loans, including those previously not covered under the program, to be immediately eligible for $1.74 billion in forgiveness without further action on their end.
An additional 27,000 borrowers could qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify more periods of employment, the agency said.
“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
“Teachers, nurses, first responders, service members, and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic,” he said. “Today, the Biden Administration is showing that we have their backs, too.”
Changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program include:
- A limited waiver allowing all payments by student borrowers to count toward PSLF, no matter the loan program or payment plan.
- Allowing deferments and forbearances for active duty service members to count toward PSLF.
- Automatically offering credit toward PSLF for military service members and federal workers using data matches.
- Reviewing rejected PSLF applications for mistakes and providing borrowers a chance to have their PSLF status reconsidered.
The overhaul follows reports of borrowers who worked in the public sector being denied loan forgiveness and struggling to qualify due to “often-confusing requirements,” according to NPR.
To be eligible for public service loan forgiveness, borrowers must work in a public sector job, enroll in a qualified payment plan, make 120 on-time student loan payments and have federal direct loans.
The PSLF program began in 2007 as a way to help those with qualifying employers such as teachers, military service members, police officers, government workers and those in other public service jobs clear their debt.