The Education Department announced Wednesday that significant changes are coming to the Public Servant Loan Forgiveness program. The government estimated that 22,000 borrowers would immediately be debt-free, while another 27,000 might be eligible.
The loan program was developed in 2007 to forgive federal student loan debt incurred by public servants after making 10 years of payments. But the government has denied nearly every application for relief.
“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country.”
Before the Education Department’s announcement, only 16,000 people had their debt forgiven. About 1.3 million are trying to have their debt erased. But the change will not come overnight.
The changes to the program will be achieved in two parts. First, some rules that have prevented borrowers from erasing their debt will be loosened by the agency. This will come via a limited waiver, and those seeking relief will have until October 22 to apply.
Next, The Education Department will review all Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications that had previously been denied. Federal employees will receive automatic credit toward forgiveness.
Other changes will come via regulations made by “rulemaking.” Those changes will happen over time, not immediately.