A group of U.S. lawmakers including Tim Kaine (D-VA) and 35 advocacy groups have asked the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to extend the limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver deadline until July 1, 2023.
New PSLF regulations are set to take effect after that date to ensure all public servants with federal student loans may benefit from the waiver.
More than 189,000 public servants have had their student loans forgiven through the program since it was announced last October. One million people have received an average of one additional year of PSLF credit.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), alongside U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD-03), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn-05), and Joe Courtney (D-Conn-02) said only a fraction of public servants who are eligible for PSLF have benefited from the limited waiver.
“To date, the waiver has been overwhelmingly successful in reducing barriers for borrowers to receive PSLF relief, as the waiver accounts for almost all (91 percent) of the borrowers who have received forgiveness through the PSLF program through July 31, 2022,” wrote the lawmakers to Secretary Cardona. “The limited waiver [has] also [been] a lifeline for Federal Family Education Loan borrowers who – for the first time – have seen their payments acknowledged in the PSLF program.”
According to the Student Borrower Protection Center’s estimates, only 15 percent of the 9 million public service workers with student debt have filed paperwork to track their qualifying payments under PSLF.
The lawmakers also echoed the more than 20 state attorneys general who warned that fundamental programmatic problems with the PSLF program will immediately return – likely in a more exacerbated manner – if the waiver ends before the Department of Education implements its new PSLF regulations.
“Extending the PSLF waiver will also allow more military service members and federal employees to make progress towards loan forgiveness through PSLF. Though the Department has announced that it is currently working to ensure that all federal agencies and departments automatically provide credit for PSLF for members of the military and federal employees, this program is not yet in place,” added the lawmakers. “Military and federal data matches are critical to ensuring that the Department can identify which borrowers are eligible for PSLF and provide them automatic relief.”
Sen. Menendez and many of his colleagues have long called on the Department of Education to make comprehensive fixes to the PSLF program, which has faced scrutiny for several implementation challenges since its inception in 2007, with only 1 to 2 percent of PSLF applicants being approved each year prior to the Biden Administration proposing a sweeping overhaul of the PSLF program.
Today’s effort comes more than a month after Sen. Menendez and several of his colleagues led a group of more than 100 lawmakers in calling on the Biden Administration to extend the PSLF waiver deadline.
This effort is supported by 35 advocacy groups, including: AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Accountable.us, American Association of University Women, American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, American Council on Education, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association , OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, Association of Young Americans, Chicago Foundation for Women, Community Service Society of New York, Consumer Action, Council on Social Work Education, Fosterus, Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness, National Action Network Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Social Workers, National Council of Nonprofits, National Education Association, National Treasury Employees Union, National Women’s Law Center, New Leaders, New Jersey Citizen Action, Public Law Center, Social Current, Student Borrower Protection Center, Student Debt Crisis Center, The Arc, The Education Trust, The Institute for College Access & Success, UnidosUS, and Virginia Poverty Law Center, according to the news release.
A number of additional senators and representatives signed the letter to the Secretary of Education. A full copy of the letter may be found here.