The Education Department has announced changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows for canceling of certain student loans after 10 years of public-sector employment but whose goals have been “largely unmet.”
Currently, it said, “too few borrowers receive forgiveness, and too many do not receive credit for years of payments they made because of complicated eligibility rules, servicing errors or other technicalities.”
The program was created in 2007 to incentivize people to enter public service by providing loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for government at the federal, state, local, or tribal level. (Includes military service.)
Steps to be carried out in coming months, it said, include: simplifying the application process; a waiver period through next October so that student borrowers can count payments from all federal loan programs or repayment plans toward forgiveness, including loan types and payment plans that were not previously eligible; correcting errors that may have led to denials; and new efforts to inform potentially eligible people of the program and encourage them to apply.
It said that currently some 110,000 federal employees and 17,000 service members have certified some employment; starting next year the Education Department will begin automatically giving federal employees credit its data with information held by other federal agencies.
The program is separate from one in which agencies may reimburse employees up to $10,000 a year with a $60,000 lifetime maximum for student loan costs as a recruitment and retention incentive.