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Attorney General Bonta Calls on Department of Education to Improve Access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta urged the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to continue efforts to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) programs. On Oct. 6, 2021, ED announced critical improvements to the PSLF and TEPSLF programs, which together expanded eligibility and eliminated barriers to deliver to public servants the student loan forgiveness that they have been promised and deserve. This move by ED to improve these programs followed a lawsuit and yearslong advocacy by state attorneys general and others urging ED to take robust action to fix the broken PSLF program. In the letter, Attorney General Bonta commends ED and urges ED to go further to improve access to student loan debt relief for public servants.

“Our public servants work day in and day out on behalf of the people of California. As students, they took out federal student loans to become our nurses, teachers, first responders, and more, and then were denied the debt relief they are entitled to,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I’m pleased to see the Department of Education follow through on its commitment to fix its broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. I hope these actions represent a floor not a ceiling for the changes to come. The Department of Education must make this program more accessible to the student borrowers it was created to help.” 

As part of its improvements, ED launched a limited-time Public Service Loan Forgiveness Limited Waiver Opportunity that will run through Oct. 31, 2022, allowing eligible borrowers to receive credit for past payments made on loans that would otherwise not qualify under the PSLF program. Under the temporary program rules, any prior payment made will count as a qualifying payment, regardless of loan type, repayment plan, or whether the payment was made in full or on time. All you need is qualifying employment. This temporary change applies to student loan borrowers with Direct Loans, those who have already consolidated into the Direct Loan Program, and those who consolidate into the Direct Loan Program by Oct. 31, 2022. More information on how to utilize the Limited PSLF Waiver can be found here.

In the letter, Attorney General Bonta calls on ED to take further measures to improve access to the PSLF and TEPSLF programs, including:

  • Making the interim reconsideration process available to all public servants, not just those whose PSLF/TEPSLF applications have been denied after ten years of service;
  • Factoring servicer misconduct into the interim reconsideration process by specifically inviting borrowers to report servicer misconduct and giving great weight to borrowers’ accounts in reconsideration determinations;
  • Granting PSLF/TEPSLF credit for all periods of forbearance and deferment in light of the pervasiveness of servicer forbearance steering;
  • Automating the employment certification process for as many borrowers as possible by establishing partnerships with a variety of government and nonprofit employers;
  • Doing more to make loan forgiveness accessible to military service members, in particular, by automatically providing credit towards PSLF/TEPSLF to service members through federal data matches; and
  • Making the PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity permanent or, at a minimum, extending the deadline.

A copy of the letter can be found here.