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Dept of Education Overhauls Student Loan Forgiveness Program

The U.S. Department of Education announced major changes to a federal student loan forgiveness program that could bring relief to more than 550,000 borrowers working in government and nonprofit sectors, including around 22,000 borrowers who will automatically be eligible for student loan forgiveness without needing to take additional steps.

Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the government forgives remaining federal student loan debt for qualifying public-sector workers after they have made monthly payments for 10 years.

 

Boston, MA – August 26: An graduating army veteran, center, is recognized for her service during the 53rd Commencements of the University of Massachusetts Boston at TD Garden in Boston, MA on August 26, 2021. UMass Boston held two ceremonies to celebrate the Class of 2021 and also the Class of 2020, which didn’t have a traditional in-person graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The student loan forgiveness program has long been criticized for being difficult to navigate, with borrowers receiving little help from their loan servicers, the companies that handle billing, and other services. Many borrowers have said they found out they weren’t eligible for forgiveness only after making what they thought was a decade’s worth of qualifying payments.

In an announcement Wednesday, the Education Department said it will “restore the promise” of the debt relief program through a series of actions that will be implemented “over the coming months,” according to an agency memo. These actions include offering a time-limited waiver, which will continue through October 31, 2022, and authorize “all prior payments” from student borrowers to count towards the program, including loan types and payment plans that didn’t previously qualify for forgiveness.

Wednesday’s announcement also includes a commitment to helping military service members and federal employees access the Public Service Loan Program’s resources.

More than 1 million borrowers have made at least one qualifying payment, but only a small percentage of those enrolled have received forgiveness. Roughly 5,500 people have seen their debt wiped away, according to the latest government data.



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