Unions Call on Biden to Offer Student Debt Relief for Public Service Workers

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

The Department of Education (ED) faces new calls to administer student loan debt forgiveness, with union leaders arguing that the mismanaged rollout of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program has unfairly plagued a number of public service workers.

In a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the unions call on the department to take immediate action and cancel all the student loan debt held by public sector workers who have completed a decade or more service.

“The PSLF program was created to ease the burden of student loan debt for a generation of teachers, nurses, servicemembers and others who have chosen careers in public service,” the letter reads. “After four years of scandal and allegations of widespread mismanagement, it is clear to our organizations that the federal government has fundamentally failed to deliver on this promise.”

The union signatories represent more than 10 million public service workers — including educators, government employees, labor leaders, and firefighters — and argue that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for immediate action.

Aside from administering forgiveness, the letter calls for ED to make reforms to PSLF, specifically calling for a 90-day review of the program and giving public service workers a seat at the table in developing changes.

NASFAA Issue Brief: Public Service Loan Forgiveness

PSLF has long been scrutinized, with a 2019 report detailing that only 1.1% of applicants had their forgiveness approved. A recent report found that over the course of a decade, ED failed to provide any regulation, guidance, or direction to student loan companies that advise public service workers about their right to PSLF.

This week ED announced a pause on interest accumulation and collections on all defaulted loans for those in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and waived documentation requirements for borrowers with total and permanent disability discharges.

The letter comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klein saying the White House is looking into the administration’s legal authority to cancel student loan debt through executive action.

Looking for more on the debate surrounding student loans debt forgiveness? Check out our special episode of “Off The Cuff” — Episode 183: All Things Student Loan Forgiveness: Will It Happen? How Will It Happen? And Who's Going to Do It? 


Publication Date: 4/2/2021

Michelle F | 4/5/2021 9:30:26 AM

I have loans from 2010-2011 and my loans would be eligible for PSLF IF they were Direct Loans. But they're not so I don't qualify??? I thought that all loans held by the Feds were eligible, but apparently not! SMH

Jamie H | 4/2/2021 8:43:58 AM

After 17 years of working at a public community college, I still don't qualify for PSLF unless I triple my monthly payment amount and start the 10 year time period over. If I was financially able to do that, my balance would be paid off long before the 10 year mark regardless. SMH.

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