The U.S. Education Department (ED) continues to block federal student loan forgiveness for public servants who qualify — i.e. those who’ve faithfully made 10 years of monthly payments toward their Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP) debts.
Congress authorized the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program in 2007 to help recruit well-educated millennial replacements for millions of baby boomers scheduled to retire from government and nonprofit jobs. But the Trump administration was running ED by 2017, when qualified borrowers began applying for forgiveness. And Trump’s ED despises PSLF. Last December, its Principal Deputy Undersecretary reportedly said PSLF is a disaster ED doesn’t support.
ED and FedLoan, its PSLF contractor, denied PSLF to thousands. Last year ED’s own statistics showed that 99.5% of PSLF applicants had been rejected. So in 2018 Congress created a fix, authorizing $700 million for a Temporarily Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) Program. TEPSLF qualifies otherwise eligible public servants for forgiveness after 120 monthly payments made under any FDLP repayment plan, not just certain plans as required by PSLF.
But last week, the non-partisan General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 99% of TEPSLF applicants had been denied forgiveness. It found that:
- Over 70% of those who requested TEPSLF by sending FedLoan the emails it requires didn’t attach their PSLF Forgiveness Applications or PSLF Employment Certification Forms. There’s so much confusion surrounding these forms that it’s clear applicants aren’t well-informed about them;
- 12% of TEPSLF denials were because borrowers hadn’t yet spent 120 months making full, on-time payments or working the right jobs;
- When TEPSLF applicants are denied, they’re never told how to contest their denials; and
- TEPSLF forgiveness for the 1% who’ve gotten it averages about $41,000; but $653 million remain for TEPLSF to forgive other public servants’ FDLP loans.
So if you do or will qualify for TEPSLF, you may have to fight for debt forgiveness to which you’re entitled as long as Trump appointees run ED — and maybe longer! Here’s to prepare for that:
- Be sure you fully understand exactly what you must do to get TEPSLF — i.e. all TEPSLF eligibility criteria and required forms. This information is available through FedLoan’s and ED’s PSLF websites;
- Keep a copy of every form, email, and letter you send FedLoan. Use the Postal Service’s tracking function for anything you mail FedLoan and print, file, and keep the tracking function’s feedback to prove FedLoan received what you mailed;
- Keep clear, thorough notes — names, dates, times, discussion content, etc. — on every phone conversation you have with FedLoan or ED; and
- If you’re wrongly denied, appeal through ED’s Federal Student Aid Feedback System or Ombudsperson.
Sadly, you must assume Trump’s ED and it’s contractor are opposed to you getting the loan forgiveness you deserve under law. So these steps may be invaluable if you ever need help from your congressmen or to sue ED.
Need help understanding what you need to know about student loan repayment or forgiveness? College Affordability Solutions is available for free consultations at (512) 533-5354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.