A bipartisan team of lawmakers earlier this month announced the formation of a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Caucus in the House of Representatives to focus on protecting the program that would provide student loan forgiveness to borrowers who go on to work in public service occupations.
Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA) formed the caucus with support from a coalition of more than 50 organizations, led by the National Education Association. Under PSLF, a federal program created under former President George W. Bush in 2007, borrowers with federal student loans may have their debt forgiven after working in qualifying public service positions for 10 years and making 120 on-time payments in qualifying repayment plans.
"Many teachers, first responders, and public health specialists are working hard to make a difference in their local communities when relying on the [PSLF] Program," Costello said in a statement. "We must fulfill the promise made to these student borrowers over the past decade."
The group's development comes at a time when many are questioning the future of the federal program. Conservative-leaning thought leaders in higher education have in the past proposed curtailing or ending the program, claiming it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars and saying it would benefit graduate student borrowers with larger amounts of debt who go on to earn relatively high incomes when compared to those in other areas of public service. Even former President Barack Obama proposed capping the amount of debt that can be forgiven under the program. NASFAA's PSLF Task Force also suggested putting limits on forgiveness amounts, among other recommendations.
And most recently, President Donald Trump suggested in his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal eliminating the program entirely, although the administration has said this would only apply to new borrowers, with current borrowers working toward forgiveness grandfathered into the program.
Recent actions from the Department of Education (ED) have also cast doubt on borrowers' prospects of loan forgiveness. Four individual lawyers joined by the American Bar Association in December sued ED after the agency retroactively told the borrowers their employers did not meet PSLF requirements. The lawyers had submitted Employment Certification Forms that were previously approved by FedLoan Servicing, the company that handles PSLF loans, signaling they were on track to receive loan forgiveness. And recent court filings from ED have given the impression that borrowers cannot rely on FedLoan Servicing to guarantee whether they qualify.
"We must do more to help folks drowning in student loan debt, and to prevent the burdens of student loan debt from making one's desire to serve his or her community unattainable," Boyle said in a statement. "The PSLF Caucus will focus on making good on our collective promise to public servants who have served their communities for years, often for low pay in positions that may have otherwise not been financially manageable, with the understanding that the 10-year-old [PSLF] program would eventually help them lighten their burden of student debt. Current threats to end or limit the program are shortsighted, to say the least. PSLF is an incentive to our students, and an investment in our future."
Publication Date: 8/17/2017