Bipartisan legislation to simplify student loan relief for public servants

On Tuesday, Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Jim Baird (R-IN) announced their bipartisan legislation, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Payment Completion Fairness Act, to carry out a long overdue modernization of the PSLF program.

Currently, the law requires applicants to be employed in the public service at the time of student loan cancellation. This means that civil servants who have dutifully made their 120 payments and spent 10 years in public service become ineligible for the rebate if they change careers. Houlahan and Baird’s legislation would simplify the process, improve the pass rate for applicants and encourage more Americans to become public servants by removing the provision requiring individuals to be currently employed in public service at the time of pardon.

“Our community, the Commonwealth, and our country are strengthened by dedicated public servants, and as a former AmeriCorps participant, I am proud to present this common sense reform to help teachers, law enforcement officers , nurses and others in our country.” Houlahan said. “When Pennsylvanians and Americans dedicate a decade of their lives to serving our communities, they deserve our support to reduce bureaucratic delays and benefit from student loan forgiveness.”

“The Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program is an investment our country has made in our public services to help channel high-quality, well-educated public servants into these often underpaid and undervalued positions,” Baird said. “Unfortunately, this program has a critical flaw that may hurt some of these borrowers who have dedicated a decade or more of their life to public service. I am pleased to join Representative Houlahan in making the necessary changes to this program so that it meets its original intent.

Representatives Houlahan and Baird hope their legislation will improve candidate success. Data from the Ministry of Education shows how the many ancillary requirements of the PSLF program significantly hinder the success rate of applicants. Of the 442,277 people who met employment certification and direct loan requirements and submitted program forms through September 2021, 98% did not immediately qualify because they did not meet other requirements of the PSLF, such as the onerous provision referred to in this legislation.

This common-sense, bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by many organizations, including:

  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC)
  • Third way

“More than a decade ago, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to help make college a more affordable and accessible reality for those seeking a career in public service,” American Federation of Teachers (AFT), President, Randi Weingarten. “The program was intended to ensure that crippling student loan debt would not condemn future teachers, nurses, first responders and other public service workers to a lifetime of high payments. The PSLF Payment Completion Fairness Act would permanently remove one of the unnecessary hurdles that has been a hurdle for many people trying to access relief: the requirement that borrowers must be working in the public service at the exact time their loan is cancelled. As long as they have a history of documented government employment, borrowers would still be eligible for PSLF even without current government employment. As the administration works to further improve the PSLF program, Congress must also consider these important fixes that preserve and strengthen the PSLF and sign these improvements into law.

“NASW commends Representatives Houlahan and Baird for their leadership in introducing the PSLF Payment Completion Fairness Act, as it represents an important step toward removing barriers to public service loan forgiveness and achieving the original intention of the PSLF program”, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Director of Public Policy, Sarah Christa Butts, MSW. “Many social workers and other public service professionals across the country have been denied the PSLF’s promise of forgiveness, after completing years of qualifying public service. Social workers are grappling with the crushing burden of student loan debt, and this bipartisan legislation removes a major barrier to PSLF forgiveness for those who have dedicated their careers to public service.

“Third Way applauds this bipartisan effort to honor the intent of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program,” Third Way, Senior Education Policy Advisor, Michelle Dimino. “Dedicated U.S. public servants should be eligible for PSLF relief based on their decade of eligible service and reimbursement — period.”

“Public service workers dedicate their careers to making their neighborhoods safer, healthier and stronger – and their jobs often require college degrees,” AFSCME, President, Lee Saunders. “They often miss out on opportunities to earn higher salaries in the private sector because they are called into public office. But like too many working people, they’re struggling to make ends meet as they grapple with the crushing burden of student debt. This bipartisan bill would ensure that those who put their communities first are eligible for the relief they have earned and recognized for the sacrifice they are making.

“Members of the National Education Association enthusiastically support the bipartisan Public Service Loan Payments Completion Fairness Act, which takes a big step towards realizing the promise of the PSLF program”, National Education Association, Director of Government Relations, Marc Egan. “Educators and other public servants who have met loan forgiveness requirements should not be denied what they were promised because they retired or left. The 100,000 borrowers who have been approved for the PSLF under the Ministry of Education’s limited waiver tell us how desperately needed this legislation is; it offers a permanent solution to a serious problem. NEA members and retirees commend Congresswoman Houlahan for taking action and standing up for fairness.

Find a page here and read the full text of the bill here.

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