WASHINGTON– U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) today joined a bicameral group of their colleagues in urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to extend the limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver deadline until July 1, 2023 – when the Department of Education’s new PSLF regulations are set to take effect, in order to ensure all public servants with federal student loans can benefit from this historic waiver. Since the Department announced the limited PSLF waiver last October, more than 189,000 public servants have had their student loans forgiven through the program and one million have received an average of one additional year of PSLF credit. Senators Van Hollen and Cardin joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) alongside U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-Md.-03), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.-02) in sending the letter.
“To date, the waiver has been overwhelmingly successful in reducing barriers for borrowers to receive PSLF relief, as the waiver accounts for almost all (91%) of the borrowers who have received forgiveness through the PSLF program through July 31, 2022,” wrote the lawmakers to Secretary Cardona. “The limited waiver [has] also [been] a lifeline for Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) borrowers who—for the first time—have seen their payments acknowledged in the PSLF program.”
Despite how many public servants have already benefited from the limited waiver, the lawmakers highlighted that these borrowers represent only a fraction of the public servants who are eligible for PSLF. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center’s estimates, only 15% of the 9 million public service workers with student debt have filed paperwork to track their qualifying payments under PSLF. The lawmakers also echoed the more than 20 state attorneys general who warned that fundamental programmatic problems with the PSLF program will immediately return – likely in a more exacerbated manner – if the waiver ends before the Department of Education implements its new PSLF regulations.
“Extending the PSLF waiver will also allow more military service members and federal employees to make progress towards loan forgiveness through PSLF. Though the Department has announced that it is currently working to ensure that all federal agencies and departments automatically provide credit for PSLF for members of the military and federal employees, this program is not yet in place,” added the lawmakers. “Military and federal data matches are critical to ensuring that the Department can identify which borrowers are eligible for PSLF and provide them automatic relief.”
Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and many of their colleagues have long called on the Department of Education to make comprehensive fixes to the PSLF program, which has faced scrutiny for several implementation challenges since its inception in 2007, with only 1 to 2 percent of PSLF applicants being approved each year prior to the Biden Administration proposing a sweeping overhaul of the PSLF program. This week’s effort comes more than a month after Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and over 100 lawmakers called on the Biden Administration to extend the PSLF waiver deadline.
This effort is supported by 35 advocacy groups, including: AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Accountable.us, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), American Council on Education (ACE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Psychological Association (APA), OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, Association of Young Americans (AYA), Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW), Community Service Society of New York (CSSNY), Consumer Action, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Fosterus, Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness (MCCFW), National Action Network Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Council of Nonprofits, National Education Association (NEA), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), New Leaders, New Jersey Citizen Action, Public Law Center, Social Current, Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC), The Arc, The Education Trust, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), UnidosUS, and Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC).
Joining Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, Menendez, Kaine, and Gillibrand in signing the letter are: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Joining Reps. Sarbanes, Hayes, and Courtney in the House in signing the letter are: Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), David Trone (D-Md.-06), C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.-02), Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12), Colin Allred (D-Texas-32), Cynthia Axne (D-Iowa-03), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.-44), Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.-01), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.-02), Shontel Brown (D-Ohio-11), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), Sean Casten (D-Ill.-06), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), David Cicilline (D-R.I.-01), James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.-06), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), Angie Craig (D-Minn.-02), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.-07), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.-03), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.-11), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.-12), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas-35), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.-03), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.-07), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.-04), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas-29), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas-18), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.-53), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.-07), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.-06), John B. Larson (D-Conn.-01), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.-14), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.-03), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.-08), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.-06), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.-04), James McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.-09), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.-04), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-32), Marie Newman (D-Ill.-03), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.-At-Large), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.-14), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.-06), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-20), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.-09), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine-01), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-45), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.-07), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-05), Deborah K. Ross (D-N.C.-02), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.-01), Gregorio Sablan (D-N. Mariana Is.-At-Large), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.-09), David Scott (D-Ga.-13), Adam Smith (D-Wash.-09), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.-07), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.-11), Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-15), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-13), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), Peter Welch (D-Vt.-At-Large), Susan Wild (D-Pa.-07), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.-05), and John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky.-03).
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Secretary Cardona:
Thank you for your continued efforts to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As you are aware, the limited PSLF waiver, announced last October, has significantly improved the lives of the more than 189,000 public servants who have had their student loans forgiven though the program and the one million who have received an average of one additional year of PSLF credit. Given the upcoming October 31, 2022 limited PSLF waiver deadline, we write to reiterate our request that the Department of Education extend its deadline until July 1, 2023—when the Department’s new PSLF regulations will take effect—in order to ensure that all public servants with federal student loans are able to benefit from this historic waiver.
To date, the waiver has been overwhelmingly successful in reducing barriers for borrowers to receive PSLF relief, as the waiver accounts for almost all (91%) of the borrowers who have received forgiveness through the PSLF program through July 31, 2022. The limited waiver is also a lifeline for Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) borrowers who—for the first time—have seen their payments acknowledged in the PSLF program. Yet, data indicates that only a fraction of the public servants who are eligible for PSLF have utilized the waiver. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center’s estimates, only 15% of the 9 million public service workers with student debt have filed paperwork to track their qualifying payments under PSLF.
As more than 20 state attorneys general have pointed out, “[g]iven the essential benefits provided by the limited PSLF waiver, and the fact that fundamental problems with the PSLF program will immediately return (likely in an exacerbated form) upon the waiver’s end, we have grave concerns about the plans to end the waiver . . . before the Department’s new PSLF regulations take effect.”These attorneys general, alongside the education advocacy, government, and non-profit community as a whole, agree that operationalizing and explaining the waiver has been an incredible challenge for the Department, as well as its servicers. Such challenges have left numerous public servants confused about how the waiver, consolidation, and the Department’s one-time review to fix forbearance and deferment failures will work. This is especially true for FFEL borrowers and borrowers who still hold joint consolidated loans from the Department, many of whom are still unaware that they may have an opportunity to qualify for PSLF under the limited PSLF waiver.
Importantly, extending the PSLF waiver will also allow more military service members and federal employees to make progress towards loan forgiveness through PSLF. Though the Department has announced that it is currently working to ensure that all federal agencies and departments automatically provide credit for PSLF for members of the military and federal employees, this program is not yet in place. Military and federal data matches are critical to ensuring that the Department can identify which borrowers are eligible for PSLF and provide them automatic relief.
Since the deadline of October 31, 2022 to qualify for PSLF under the waiver program is less than one month away, we ask that the Department extend this deadline in order to ensure that all public servants with federal student loans are able to benefit from this historic waiver.