The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, created in 2007, was meant to help professionals struggling under mounting education costs. Ideally, someone with federal student loan debt who works for a qualifying employer for 10 years while paying down their debt would see the balance forgiven. The first participants to be eligible should have started seeing their benefits in late 2017.
Unfortunately, that’s not proving to be the case. People who have successfully followed the plan for a decade are seeing their claims denied, and they’re not in the minority. Fewer than 1 percent of the 73,000 applicants, a mere few hundred individuals, have been granted relief. None of the denied applicants were informed at any point in their decade of service that they were putting in that time for nothing.
In 2018, Congress allotted an extra $350 million to help the matter, but still, the stranglehold on applications continues.
On July 11, 2019, the American Federation of Teachers union sued the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over alleged mismanagement of the program and its funds. The union also claims that the Education Department had improperly rejected the applications of teachers who were seeking public service loan forgiveness, and in doing so, had violated their constitutional right to due process.
The lawsuit, representing eight educators in proxy of the whole profession, blames the DoE for “capricious” denial of applicants and for failing to include any review or guidance processes to educate applicants about their eligibility. DeVos is named specifically because since her appointment, she has tried to end the program in each yearly budget request.
“Instead of helping the millions of Americans owed debt relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, DeVos has hurt and pauperized them. And instead of working with lawmakers to improve the program that millions of teachers, firefighters, nurses, and first responders deserve, DeVos has vandalized it,” said president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten in a statement.
The Department of Education has declined any comment.