Top Student-Loan Official Is 'Pushing Hard' for PSLF Waiver Extension
top student loan official is 'pushing hard' for pslf waiver extension

Top Student-Loan Official Is ‘Pushing Hard’ for PSLF Waiver Extension

President Joe Biden’s top student-loan official suggested relief might be extended for government and nonprofit workers.

In October, the Education Department announced reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is intended to forgive student debt for public servants after ten years of qualifying payments. Included in those reforms was a limited-time waiver through October 31, 2022 that would allow previously ineligible payments to qualify for the program, and the department estimated the waiver alone would bring 550,000 borrowers closer to relief. 

But October 31 is just over four months away, and head of Federal Student Aid Richard Cordray said during a National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) conference this week that he is worried the waiver will expire before all eligible borrowers can make use of it. 

“We are pushing hard to get approval if we can get it extended,” Cordray said.

According to NASFAA, Cordray added that further extending the waiver could face challenges due to limits in executive authority, but it’s unclear what those limits are. As of June 1, the Education Department has approved $8.1 billion in loan forgiveness for 145,000 borrowers under the PSLF reforms, but as Insider has previously reported, some borrowers are still continuing to face hurdles accessing relief through the program due to administrative errors and obstacles from federal laws around student debt. 

For example, a recent analysis from advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center found that while 9 million public servants are eligible for student-loan forgiveness, only 2% of them have actually gotten their debt wiped out — and fewer than 15% have filed paperwork to track their PSLF progress.

And for a particular subset of student-loan borrowers — those who combined their debt balances with a spouse — law currently prohibits them from separating their loans into ones that would be eligible for PSLF, meaning Congress has 4 months to change the law or those borrowers who are public servants will not get relief.

Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced a bill earlier this month that would reduce the number of qualifying payments to PSLF to 60 payments over five years and allow any prior student-loan payment to qualify toward forgiveness progress, and advocates have pushed for the waiver to be extended to make up for years of flaws with PSLF that have blocked those eligible from student-loan forgiveness.

“This is not the time to cut corners in getting that relief to as many people as possible, which is why President Biden must extend the limited PSLF waiver and support us in helping our members access PSLF,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a recent statement.

The Education Department has not commented on the likelihood of a waiver extension, and in the meantime, it said it’s prepared to implement whatever decision Biden makes on broad student-loan forgiveness, likely to be announced in July or August.

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