Changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Could Help More Than 550,000 Borrowers

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that over 550,000 student loan borrowers could find relief as the result of major changes made to the Public Service Loan Program (PSLF), which forgives remaining federal student loan debt for qualifying public-service workers who have made payments for 10 years. The program, designed to draw graduates into public service work, has previously been criticized for having notoriously tight eligibility rules.

The changes, which will be implemented over the next year, hope to relax those strict rules. They include:

  • a waiver allowing all payments by student borrowers to count toward PSLF, regardless of the borrower's loan program or payment plan. Previously, many borrowers were told they didn't have the correct type of federal loan or repayment plan in order to qualify for the program, even after a decade of making payments. According to the Department of Education, this change means 22,000 borrowers will be immediately eligible to get loans canceled.
  • allowing service members to count their deferments and forbearances toward PSLF while on active duty.
  • automatically providing credit for military service members and federal employees using federal data matches. Workers previously had to apply to have their payments certified and receive credit.
  • reviewing previously denied PSLF applications for errors, allowing borrowers to have their PSLF determinations reconsidered. 

“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. “Teachers, nurses, first responders, servicemembers, and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden Administration is showing that we have their backs, too.”