ACE and 36 other higher education groups sent a letter last week to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, expressing concern with recent reports regarding the Department of Education’s (ED) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
The program was established in 2007 under President George W. Bush as a way of easing the burden of student debt for people employed by nonprofits or in the public sector. Under the program, student loan borrowers who work for qualifying employers and make 120 monthly on-time payments would have their remaining loan balances wiped out. Eligible borrowers will file the first applications for forgiveness later this year.
However, it now appears that some borrowers will not be able to rely upon the department’s previous determinations of their eligibility. ED’s records show that in recent years, nearly 850,000 forms submitted by more than 550,000 borrowers have been approved.
Congressional lawmakers have raised concerns about the program's long-term costs, but there is no indication of any policy changes in either the PSLF tracking system or employment eligibility requirements. The letter encourages the department to explain the situation—and if there have been changes, to offer the public an opportunity to comment on them.
At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last week, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) asked James Runcie, chief operating officer for ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid, to commit to hold a briefing on the status of the PSFL program. Runcie agreed, but did not say when it would happen.