Another round of student loan forgiveness looks imminent—it could come this week

BY Lance LambertOctober 04, 2021, 12:57 PM
Students on campus at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., as seen in September 2021. (Photographer: Stefani Reynolds—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There’s something wrong with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. When PSLF was created by the U.S. Congress in 2007, it was supposed to create a pathway to forgiveness for public servants—everyone from firefighters to teachers. However, in recent years, 98% of borrowers who have applied to get their loans canceled through the program have seen their application denied.

That program could soon be revamped: As early as this week, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to extend forgiveness to more borrowers through an expansion of the PSLF program.

There are two changes in the pipeline, according to NPR. The first change will address PSLF forgiveness requirements—which, as currently written, are seen as onerous. The second change will retroactively apply that first change to borrowers who have had their application denied in recent years. But until an official announcement comes, which 60 Minutes said Sunday is imminent, we won’t know exactly what those rule changes will be.

Under current law, borrowers can see their federal student loans wiped out through the PSLF program only if they meet the following criteria: hold a public sector job; participate in a repayment plan; and make 120 on-time student loan payments. That might sound simple; however, most borrowers find themselves coming up short of the legal requirements.

Since taking power, the Biden-Harris administration has been under pressure to overhaul the PSLF program. Look no further than a letter signed last month by a group of more than 200 community organizations and nonprofits, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Government Employees.

“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,” the signees wrote. “We call on you [the Department of Education] to establish new, streamlined criteria for a simple, straightforward path to cancel debt for all who have worked in public service for a decade or more.”

If the Department of Education does announce another round of student loan forgiveness this week, it will mark the fifth round since Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March. So far, those announcements amount to $9.5 billion in wiped-out student loan debt held by 563,000 borrowers. But it’s hardly the “mass” forgiveness progressive activists are seeking. Indeed, the 2021 announcements amount to less than 1% of total U.S. student loan debt.

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