Many in public service jobs are eligible to have 100 percent of their federal student loan balances forgiven
Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today joined with Rhode Islanders who have had considerable student loan balances erased through the U.S. Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program to raise awareness about the upcoming October 31 deadline to apply for loan forgiveness under a temporary waiver broadening PSLF eligibility. This morning’s event took place at College Visions, a Providence nonprofit that helps first-generation and low-income students achieve the promise of higher education.
“I encourage all Rhode Islanders working in public service professions to take a moment to check if they might qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program before this period of temporary leniency expires at the end of October,” said Whitehouse. “This program has provided a life-changing fresh slate for the constituents my office has helped through the process. Freed of the lingering burden of student debt, PSLF recipients are often finally able to buy a home or start investing in their own children’s education.”
Rhode Islanders who have worked in public service, including for a government or non-profit organization, for ten years or more may be eligible to have all of their remaining student debt canceled through the PSLF Program. Congress established the PSLF program in 2007 to encourage college students to go into public service professions that in many cases do not pay as much as private sector jobs. To apply for the program, borrowers must have made 120 monthly payments on Direct federal student loan types after October 1, 2007 while working at a qualifying job in government or nonprofit. If borrowers meet the criteria, their remaining loan balance should be forgiven.
However, red tape and bureaucratic issues have plagued the PSLF program for years, preventing many people who thought they were eligible from actually receiving loan forgiveness. Due to the program’s narrow and confusing specifications, many borrowers found after making years of what they believed to be valid payments that they do not qualify for loan forgiveness.
Last fall, the Biden administration announced a temporary waiver allowing more types of payments to qualify toward the program, making more Rhode Islanders eligible for student debt cancellation through PSLF. Under the waiver rules, any payment made prior to consolidation into a Federal Direct Loan will count as a qualifying payment, regardless of loan type, repayment plan, or whether the payment was made in full or on time. The waiver expires at the end of this month.
Since hearing from early applicants caught in the PSLF bureaucracy several years ago, Whitehouse has doggedly pursued fixes to the program and worked to help constituents navigate the application process. In 2018, Whitehouse helped secure $350 million to provide additional conditions under which a borrower may become eligible for loan forgiveness if some or all of the payments made on their Direct Loan Program loans were under otherwise non-qualifying repayment plans.
“Senator Whitehouse’s office helped me and finally in August my loans were forgiven. All of my federal loans are gone so now, I might actually be able to do something like buy a house for the first time in my life because I don’t have crushing student loan debt,” said Carole McLaughlin, a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office. “I would say to anyone who’s out there and who’s thinking about all of the different times they’ve called and all the different answers they’ve been given: don’t give up, make sure you put your application in. Don’t miss this opportunity because you may qualify and it can be life-changing.”
“The limited Public Student Loan Forgiveness waiver has been life-changing. In 2003 I consolidated my student loans and started a 30-year repayment plan where I made payments of $521.18 a month,” said Shayna Morgan, an Assistant Principal at a local high school. “Despite working as a teacher and school administrator since 2004 while making over 180 of these monthly payments, I did not qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness because my payments were not made under a qualified repayment plan. Thanks to this limited waiver I was able to get credit for payments that were previously considered ineligible, and I was able to have my remaining balance of $64,182.20 forgiven. I am so grateful for the limited PSLF waiver and hope others take advantage of this great opportunity.”
While the temporary waiver ends at the end of this month, Whitehouse is committed to continuing to make the PSLF Program work better for Rhode Island borrowers. In June, Whitehouse introduced the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act to streamline and improve the program. In addition to making the Biden Administration’s waiver permanent, the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act would reduce the number of payments needed to qualify for PSLF loan forgiveness from 120 payments over 10 years to 60 payments over 5 years while working for an eligible employer.
“The federal government made a promise to Rhode Islanders who went to college and dedicated their careers to keeping our communities running. These public servants have done everything right, and I’m going to continue to work to make sure that the government holds up its end of the deal,” added Whitehouse.
Rhode Islanders seeking guidance on navigating the application process for PSLF or the waiver program should contact Nick Vincelette in Senator Whitehouse’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.