My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 8, 2021

Changes to federal program make it easier for more public servants to receive student loan forgiveness

By Nicole Bertrand, MyCG Staff

The Department of Education announced on Oct. 6 that it will implement changes to its Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program over the coming months. Many more public service workers will be eligible to get student loans discharged. Through a temporary waiver, even loan types and payment plans that were not previously eligible will be considered. The deadline to apply for the waiver is Oct. 31, 2022.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) cancels qualifying student debts after borrowers work for 10 years in public service. PSLF removes the burden of student debt on public servants, makes it possible for many borrowers to stay in their jobs, and entices others to work in high-need fields. The improvements to the program will streamline the process and reduce and correct errors.

Currently, too few borrowers receive forgiveness and too many do not receive credit for years of payments they made because of complicated eligibility rules, servicing errors or other technicalities.

“The recent waiver to the PSLF program is a game changer,” said Capt. Shanell King, deputy, Office of Legal Policy and Program Development. “There are hundreds of people who have spent years in public service believing they were not able to take advantage of the program. Now, the promise of loan forgiveness for public service has gotten new life.”

The new measures will help support the teachers, nurses, firefighters, and others serving their communities through hard work that is essential to our country’s success. They will also help members of the military get credit toward forgiveness while they serve. 

The Department of Education stated that it will:

  • Implement a Limited PSLF Waiver to count all prior payments made by student borrowers toward PSLF, regardless of loan program. 
  • Simplify what it means for a payment to qualify for PSLF.
  • Eliminate barriers for military service members to receive PSLF.
  • Automatically help service members and other federal employees access PSLF.
  • Review denied PSLF applications and identify and correct errors in PSLF processing.
  • Improve outreach and communication with PSLF-eligible borrowers.
  • Simplify the PSLF application process.
  • Make long-term improvements to PSLF through rulemaking.

The Department of Education estimates that the limited waiver alone will help over 550,000 borrowers who had previously consolidated their loans see their progress toward PSLF grow automatically. This includes approximately 22,000 borrowers who will be immediately eligible to have their federal student loans discharged without further action on their part, totaling $1.74 billion in forgiveness. Another 27,000 borrowers could potentially qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment.

If the Department of Education previously said your employer was not eligible for PSLF then you need to submit a new form through the PSLF Help Tool to see if you can receive credit toward forgiveness. You can also see which employers the Department of Education has already deemed eligible through the PSLF Help Tool. 

Please note that this waiver does not affect qualifying employer rules. Your employer still needs to be a governmental organization, a 501(c)(3) organization, or a not-for-profit organization that provides a designated public service to get PSLF under normal rules and the Limited PSLF Waiver.

If any of these scenarios are applicable, you can follow the links below:

  • You have direct loans and you’ve already had some PSLF employment certified. Click here
  • You currently have direct loans and have not yet applied for PSLF. Click here
  • You have at least one federal student loan that is not a direct loan, such as an FFEL loan. Click here
  • You don’t know what kind of federal loans you have. Click here

For more information, please click here. You should ensure accurate contact information is on file by registering for an FSA ID here so you can receive direct and personalized communication about how the waiver and other matters might affect you. You can also update your information if need be.  

Questions? Contact your local Command Financial Specialist with questions or local legal assistance office.

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