AVMA urges improvements to public service loan program

Published on October 24, 2018


Addressing Student Debt Driving Veterinary SuccessThe AVMA is asking federal officials to determine why many applicants for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program are being turned down, and to make needed changes to ensure the program serves the veterinarians and other public service employees it should be helping.

Last week, we joined a broad coalition of organizations and other interested parties in sending a letter to Education Department officials expressing concern about the situation, requesting detailed information, and urging the department to work with us to improve the program. Separately, 150 House and Senate lawmakers sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requesting information about the department’s management of the program and asking it to swiftly address issues.

The action came amidst numerous reports that many Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) participants are being denied forgiveness, and a September report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found continuing problems in the federal government’s management of the program. Problems cited in the GAO report included deficiencies in the guidance and instruction the Education Department provides to loan servicers, insufficient guidance on determining qualified employers, and inconsistent information about qualifying loan payments.

PSLF provides tax-free student loan forgiveness to individuals who have worked 10 years in qualifying nonprofit or public-sector roles after making 120 qualifying, on-time loan payments. The only loans qualified for forgiveness through the program are William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans, known as the “Direct Loan” program. The PSLF program is distinct from forgiveness offered under income-driven loan repayment plans, where loan forgiveness is taxed.

Because of the strict requirements on loans that qualify for PSLF forgiveness, and unclear communications to borrowers from program administrators, it’s possible that some applicants may have applied inadvertently for the wrong payment program or unintentionally failed to make qualifying payments.

In anticipation of these issues, AVMA and other PSLF supporters worked with Congress to secure funding for the Education Department to establish a second-level review process for applicants wrongly denied forgiveness, known as “Temporary Expanded PSLF.” Congress also directed the Education Department to increased outreach and education for borrowers to ensure they are aware of and on track to meet the program’s requirements.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is an important tool that enables veterinarians and other professionals to afford to work in important public service positions, and the AVMA has worked tirelessly to protect and improve it. As the coalition's letter to the Education Department said, Public Service Loan Forgiveness "helps enable public service employers in every community to recruit and retain the talented personnel required to meet this country’s health, environmental, education, public safety and other needs." We will remain actively engaged to fix the program’s problems and enhance it to better serve the veterinary community.

If you were denied forgiveness through PSLF or have experienced issues with the program, please contact the AVMA at 202-789-0007. You also can share your story using AVMA’s online advocacy tools.

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