The following letter was sent from David Stern, Equal Justice Works Executive Director, to the Equal Justice Community in response to the Department of Education’s recent announcement to overhaul the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Dear Equal Justice Works Community,
Yesterday was a historic day for our public service professionals, including public interest lawyers, relying on educational debt relief through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Educational debt is an obstacle that prevents many graduates from taking relatively low-paying public service jobs and staying in them, and Equal Justice Works has been working to address this issue since this organization was founded 35 years ago. The promise of PSLF is that a borrower can earn forgiveness following 10 years of full-time public service and on time loan payments. PSLF ensures that our nation can attract and retain qualified and passionate professionals in public health, public education, and public safety jobs that are critical to the wellbeing of our communities and country.
At last, we are seeing real and positive change from our advocacy and are thrilled that the Department of Education announced major changes to PSLF both to improve the program going forward and address the problems of the past.
The Department of Education announced that it will offer a time-limited waiver so that student borrowers can count payments from all federal loan programs or repayment plans toward forgiveness. This includes loan types and payment plans that were not previously eligible. The department promised to also pursue opportunities to automate PSLF eligibility, give borrowers a way to get errors corrected, and make it easier for members of the military to get credit toward forgiveness while they serve. These changes will be paired with an expanded communications campaign to ensure affected borrowers learn about these opportunities and encourage them to apply.
Up until this point, the Department of Education has rejected 98% of applicants for forgiveness. Teachers, nurses, social workers, public service lawyers, doctors, and many others have relied on this program and then told that they did not have the right loans or the amounts paid were not exactly right (sometimes off by a penny), and many would have to start all over again. That is why this news is a huge victory for public service workers everywhere.
For those of you in the law school community, I urge you to share this news with your current law students, recent graduates, and alumni to ensure that those who might be eligible for this waiver enroll by October 31, 2022.
Read the Department of Education’s press release about the PSLF program overhaul here