More than 100,000 borrowers have had their student loan debt forgiven — totaling over $6 billion — since the Biden administration announced changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in October 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Hundreds of thousands more could still see relief. The Education Department estimates that around 550,000 borrowers total — including non-profit workers, nurses, service members, teachers, and others — will benefit from the changes, which include retroactively broadening the types of loans that are eligible for forgiveness and automatically certifying payments for federal employees and members of the military.
The PSLF program was instituted in 2007 to encourage some workers to go into public service by forgiving the balance of their federal student loan debt after 10 years. Non-profit and government employees who make 120 monthly on-time payments on certain types of federal loans qualify for the program.
Though it was created with noble intent, the program has been plagued with issues over the years, and few borrowers had managed to actually receive forgiveness before the Biden administration announced the temporary waivers.
As part of the changes being implemented by the Department of Education, any type of payment made by qualifying borrowers will count toward the 120 payment total, including partial payments, late payments, and those made during an extended repayment program. The department is also reviewing all applications that were previously denied forgiveness for errors. Borrowers have until October 31, 2022 to submit a waiver to have previously ineligible payments counted.
The PSLF changes are part of the Biden administration’s larger effort to forgive some student loan balances. In the past few years, the Education Department has also forgiven debt for disabled borrowers and some of those defrauded by for-profit colleges.
But that’s not enough for many Democrats. On Thursday, around 100 Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to the president encouraging him to cancel a “meaningful amount” of student loan debt.
“As your administration works towards rebuilding a more equitable and just economy, it should use its administrative powers to address this crisis and permanently relieve the millions of borrowers struggling with this debt,” the letter reads. Doing so “will provide long-term benefits to individuals and the economy, helping families buy their first homes, open a small business, or invest in their retirement.”
The lawmakers also asked Biden to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until the end of the year. It currently expires on May 1.
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