From Federal Student Aid’s Chief: How Public Service Loan Forgiveness Can Free You From Federal Student Loan Debt
By Richard Cordray, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Department of Education, office of Federal Student Aid
Millions of people across this country work in public service jobs. Some work for federal, state, local, or tribal government. Others work for various nonprofit organizations, such as those that provide public education, health services, legal services, and more. Many more may be considering public service careers that raise our quality of life. But they may be worried about how they can afford to pay off their student loans.
Are you one of these public servants? If so, Federal Student Aid offers a key program that could lead to forgiveness for your federal student loans. Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, those who work in public service while making 120 qualifying federal student loan monthly payments can earn full forgiveness of their remaining student loan debt.
This can be life-changing. We’ve heard personal stories from thousands of happy people who signed up and received relief. They tell us they now can think about getting married or buying a house because they are finally free from this burden. Others tell us they no longer need to worry about how to cover basic household expenses while making student loan payments.
Although the PSLF Program was signed into law 16 years ago, until recently, it was difficult for borrowers to access. When President Biden took office, only 7,000 people had received PSLF. But under the Biden-Harris Administration, we’ve made significant changes to simplify what was once a confusing and complex program. One-time temporary changes and permanent, long-term updates have made it easier for borrowers to qualify. As a result, more than 715,000 public servants have now had their total debt forgiven, as of early October 2023. This is no small matter: the average relief is nearly $70,000 per borrower!
Yet large numbers of public servants are still not signed up to get this important benefit. If you are a public servant with federal student loans, you too could be working toward the debt forgiveness you have rightfully earned.
Your eligibility for PSLF is based on your employer, not your job. For example, to operate a school effectively, we need not just teachers, counselors, and administrators, but also safety officers, school cafeteria workers, and custodial staff. Every one of them is a public servant and could be working toward PSLF if they have federal student loans or took out federal student loans for their children.
If you’re a public servant who previously applied when the program was choked with red tape, come back and try again. The process is now much more accessible. In fact, applicants and their employers can digitally sign and submit forms using our PSLF Help Tool. Making things faster and easier means less burden for you, for your employers, and for us as well.
When I arrived at the office of Federal Student Aid two years ago, I saw my colleagues working hard—usually with no fanfare or applause—to make things better for those we serve. And when we see our work on the PSLF program lifting heavy burdens off people’s shoulders and opening new horizons for their futures, it makes all the work feel worthwhile.
No public servants should be missing out on the benefits they have earned. If you are a public servant with federal student loans, visit StudentAid.gov/publicservice and apply for PSLF today.