This week, Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona have made steps toward changing a troubled student loan program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness. According to NBC News, the program launched in 2007 with the hopes of getting more college graduates involved in public service, but it has only helped 5,500 borrowers erase their student debt. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is designed to alleviate federal loans for those who spend 10 years working in public service after graduation. However, NBC News reports that more than 90% of borrowers have been rejected after making years of payments because their loans did not meet the program's requirements.
The newly revamped Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will eliminate federal loans for all applicants after borrowers make 10 years of payments. An estimated 22,000 borrowers are eligible to get their loans canceled and an additional 27,000 borrowers could be deemed eligible if they get their past payments certified. Overall, a total of 550,000 borrowers are expected to be positively impacted by these changes.
“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” Cardona said, according to the Associated Press.
“The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers.”
Active duty military members and federal workers will also have an opportunity to join the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Education will automatically count payments by federal workers and military members toward the required 10 years.
Many of these changes are being categorized as short term solutions as the federal government works toward long term adjustments.
“Today we breathe a collective sigh of relief as the Kafkaesque system that dashed the dreams of far too many finally starts to be dismantled," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told NBC News.
Unfortunately, all lawmakers were not on board with these changes. Several Republican lawmakers criticized Biden's use of executive power to make this change rather than work with a divided group of legislators on Capitol Hill.
“We agree this program is in desperate need of reform; however, such reforms require congressional action, and we encourage you to work with us to fix the federal loan and repayment program,” Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina wrote in a letter to Cardona.
Moving forward, Cardona and several other top officials will participate in congressional hearings regarding the nation's education system.