Enrollment in income-driven student loan repayment plans, as well as the number of borrowers who submitted at least one approved form used to track their eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program has increased since last year, according to new data from the Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA).
A series of reports released last month through the FSA Data Center show that as of September 2017, the number of Direct Loan borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans increased by 16 percent. The reports found that 6.5 million Direct Loan borrowers are enrolled in plans such as Income-based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). Combined with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) borrowers enrolled in IBR and Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR) plans, 6.8 million borrowers are enrolled in income-driven plans overall. Additionally, the REPAYE plan, which was first made available in December 2015, saw its enrollment double since last year to nearly 1.8 million borrowers.
The reports also showed that the percentage of Direct Loan and FFEL borrowers in forbearance has increased to 8 percent, up from 7 percent year. FSA attributed this increase to Direct Loan borrowers being placed into mandatory forbearance after recent hurricanes.
FSA also found an increase in the number of borrowers on track to qualify for forgiveness under the PSLF program. In order to receive loan forgiveness, a borrower working in the public sector must make 120 monthly payments while enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. In an effort to help borrowers record their payments over the course of 10 years, ED established a voluntary Employment Certification Form (ECF) to track repayment progress and ensure that borrowers continue to meet program requirements.
FSA reported that 740,000 borrowers submitted at least one ECF since the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. Between 2015 and 2016, these numbers also jumped 70 percent.
Additionally, the approval rate for the voluntary form has remained steady at 66 percent. As of the third quarter of 2017, 1,230,941 forms have been approved. On the other hand, 633,447 forms have been denied. This can occur when a form is incomplete, a borrower’s loans do not qualify for the program, or an employer does meet program requirements. If a borrower whose loans are eligible for the program is found to be enrolled in an ineligible repayment plan, he or she will be advised to switch to another plan, and the ECF form is not counted as rejected.
FSA has more data available on the characteristics of borrowers in income-driven repayment plans as well as the number of borrowers who submitted ECF’s in the FSA Data Center.
Publication Date: 1/3/2018