Student borrowers are getting help, as the U.S. Department of Education cancels federally-held debt for 40,000 and offers help for over 3.5 million more.
“Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in the Tuesday statement.
The action mostly centers around the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, a program created in 2007 to encourage professional education and and employment in public service. The program allows for federal student loan borrowers who work in the public sector and have made 10 years of payments on their student loans to have the balance forgiven. The program was expected to help alleviate the debt burden of tens of thousands of public servants beginning in 2017, the first year people could claim benefits. But under the Trump administration and former Education Secretary Besty DeVos, only 661 out of over 54,000 applicants were approved for debt forgiveness. Many had been provided misleading information about which loan types and payment plans qualified, while others were denied for no given reason.
With some, though not all, of the PSLF Program’s problems ironed out since 2018, approximately 100,000 student borrowers have had their remaining student debts waived. But the Department of Education estimates that 1.3 million people remain who qualify but have not completed the application process.
In Tuesday’s statement, the government said that it was addressing “historical failures” to help borrowers understand their rights and opportunities in federal student loan programs.
40,000 more public sector borrowers will receive immediate debt forgiveness, this week. 3.6 million more people will receive 3 years of credit (standing for 36 payments) towards PSLF or IDR forgiveness. IDR forgiveness is income-based debt relief, meant to help those whose financial standings have not benefited from their college educations.