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December 01, 2021

Education Department overhauls Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

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An overhaul of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will provide billions of dollars in immediate forgiveness of educational debt.

U.S. Department of Education officials expect immediate benefits for tens of thousands of borrowers through program changes that will, overall, help more than a half-million borrowers progress more quickly toward loan forgiveness. Department officials also plan to work with state, local, and tribal government agencies; school districts; labor unions; and other stakeholders to simplify the process to apply for forgiveness.

DOE officials said in an Oct. 6 announcement that the changes were intended to “make the program live up to its promise.”

Public Service Loan Forgiveness PSLF Program documents

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives the remaining balance of educational loans for borrowers, including veterinarians, who make 120 qualifying monthly payments during their work in public service or work for certain tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

A fact sheet published with October’s announcement indicates too few borrowers receive loan forgiveness through the program because of complicated rules related to which loan payments count toward that 120-payment total as well as servicing errors and other technicalities. The document notes that department officials plan to review all denied PSLF applications and PSLF processing practices to identify and address errors.

The overhaul during the next year expands which loan types and payment plans are eligible for forgiveness, and department officials plan to not only automate eligibility for some of the benefits but also give borrowers ways to correct errors and receive credit toward forgiveness during military service. As part of the overhaul, DOE officials plan to implement a limited waiver that will allow those who borrowed to pay for their education to count toward forgiveness all payments made on loans through the Federal Family Education Loan Program or Perkins Loan Program. Officials also plan to waive certain restrictions on the types of repayment plans and the requirements that payments be made for the full amount and on time.

“The Department estimates that the limited waiver alone will help over 550,000 borrowers who had previously consolidated their loans see their progress toward PSLF grow automatically, with the average borrower receiving 23 additional payments,” the DOE fact sheet states. “This includes approximately 22,000 borrowers who will be immediately eligible to have their federal student loans discharged without further action on their part, totaling $1.74 billion in forgiveness.

“Another 27,000 borrowers could potentially qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment.”

About 16,000 borrowers have received loan forgiveness through the PSLF. The program was established in 2007, and monthly payments made after Oct. 1 of that year may be considered toward the 120-payment total.

Are you a veterinarian working in government or the nonprofit sector who has been counting on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program? Are you a veterinary student who wants to enter a career in public service and is counting on loan forgiveness to follow your career path? The AVMA provides information about how to make the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program work for you.