U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced legislation last week that would codify recent changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that seek to make it easier for teachers, social workers, and other public service workers to get debt relief, according to a press release.
The Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act, H.R. 8330, would make permanent the Biden administration's temporary PSLF waiver that streamlined the application process for borrowers while also shortening the length of time a borrower must work in public service from ten to five years. The waiver, announced in late 2021 and set to expire at the end of October, helps to minimize the bureaucratic red tape that made the program confusing and inaccessible to eligible borrowers, reported Inside Higher Ed. Thus far under the waiver, the Education Department has approved $7.3 billion in loan forgiveness for more than 127,000 borrowers through the PSLF program. In comparison, the agency only discharged a total of $1.4 billion for 18,000 borrowers from 2017—October 2021.
"October's overhaul of PSLF was a big step in the right direction, and our new bill would codify those improvements along with an additional slate of upgrades to make it easier for America's public service workers to qualify for, navigate, and benefit from this patriotic program," Rep. Courtney said in a statement.
The proposed bill would also:
- Reduce the number of payments needed to qualify for PSLF loan forgiveness from 120 payments over 10 years to 60 payments over 5 years, while working for an eligible employer
- Allow any prior period of repayment to count as a qualifying payment, regardless of federal loan type, repayment plan, or whether payments were made in full or on time
- Clarify eligibility of active-duty military and Peace Corps volunteers whose loans were in deferment during their service tenure to expand participation in the program
- Allow parent PLUS loan holders and couples who have previously joint-consolidated their FFEL federal loans to re-consolidate them into one Direct Loan for PSLF eligibility
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a companion bill in the upper chamber in May.
Republican lawmakers strongly oppose the waiver, though. At the time of the Biden administration's announcement, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that reforms should be targeted at reducing the amount of debt taken on by college students.
Without support from congressional Republicans, it remains uncertain whether the legislation can pass before the October 31 deadline for the temporary PSLF waiver.
"With a ticking clock on the waiver program, there should be, in my opinion, a growing concern and receptivity to extending the benefits of the [waiver] for people to get the discharge that they qualify for under the law," said Rep. Courtney in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.
U.S. Representative Joe Courtney's Press Release
Inside Higher Ed