By Kaitlyn Dunphy, Esq.
It’s no secret that with the skyrocketing cost of higher education in this country, many people find themselves burdened with student loan costs, including many NJEA members. According to recent statistics from the National Education Association (NEA), 45% of educators, teachers and academic support professionals have taken out student loans to help pay for their education. Of that 45%, 53% currently have a balance remaining on their loans. The average remaining student loan balance is $58,700, with 32% before $65,000 or more and 14% before $105,000 or more.
In 2007, the federal government launched the Public Service Loan Relief Program (PSLF). The basic principle of the program was to incentivize citizens for, and reward them for, public service by canceling their direct student loans after 10 years of public service, provided they work full-time for an eligible employer and make 120 full payments on time under an eligible repayment plan. In practice, the program has been plagued by poor management and notoriously difficult to navigate, with little accountability for the private lenders involved. Last summer, the Biden administration solicited and received more than 48,000 comments on how to improve the PLSF system.
The United States Department of Education (USED) heard these comments and recently announced changes in an effort to restore the broken promises of the PSLF program. USED is instituting a time-limited waiver, with a deadline of October 31, 2022, where eligible student borrowers can receive credit for prior payments from all federal loan programs or repayment plans for cancellation of the loan, including certain payments or loans that are not. be generally eligible.
Generally, only direct loans are eligible for loan forgiveness. During the waiver period, payments made on other loans, namely Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins loans, as well as loans from legacy programs, such as student loans insured by the Federal Government (FISL) and National Defense Student Loans (NDSL), will also be eligible for PSLF. To qualify, these loans will first need to be consolidated into the Direct Lending Program.
During the temporary waiver period, prior payments will be credited toward loan forgiveness, regardless of loan program, repayment plan, or whether payment was made in full or on time. This change applies to those with direct loans, those who have already consolidated into direct loans, or those who do so before the October 31, 2022 deadline (including FFEL, Perkins, FISL and NDSL loans) . It only applies to student borrowers, not parents.
Eligibility rules and application process
Some of the original eligibility requirements remain in effect. The borrower must be working full-time for an eligible employer, which includes government employers and certain non-profit organizations (unionized employment is unfortunately not eligible), during the repayment period. Multiple qualifying part-time jobs can be combined to meet the full-time requirement. One hundred and twenty qualifying payments must be made for a borrower to qualify for loan forgiveness. Periods of adjournment, abstention and default are still not admissible. However, military service members whose loans were deferred or suspended during active military service can now receive payment credit for the period of active service. Payments suspended under COVID-19 emergency relief will also be credited if all other conditions are met.
Borrowers will be required to submit Form PSLF, which is the application used to review employer certification, payment settlement and remittance processing, by October 31, 2022, if they have not. already made in order to have previously ineligible payments. credited. For those who have already submitted PSLF forms for existing Direct Loans and loans already consolidated into the Direct Loan Program, USED will automatically review these accounts for additional payments that may be credited to the PSLF. Borrowers should ensure that their loan information and certification from their employer is up to date. Those with other types of loans will first need to consolidate their loans in the Direct Lending Program and then submit the PSLF form. Loan consolidation, PSLF form submission, and other information about the PSLF program can be found by visiting studentaid.gov/pslf.
NEA has partnered with Savi to help members navigate their student loans. Savi offers webinars as well as an online tool where members can enter their loan information, and Savi will help them determine their eligibility for loan forgiveness credit. You can login or create a Savi account by visiting app.bysavi.com/account/login. You can register to attend a Savi webinar by visiting bit.ly/savievents.
NJEA organizational development consultant Andrew Lewis also offers monthly webinars on credentials, not debt. You can register by visiting njea.org/dndwebinars. These programs are free for NEA-NJEA members.
USED predicts that more than 550,000 borrowers will benefit from this waiver, with the average person receiving credit for 23 additional payments toward loan forgiveness. Of these, USED expects 22,000 borrowers to be immediately eligible for full loan forgiveness and 27,000 borrowers to potentially be eligible for forgiveness of $2.82 billion if they certify periods additional qualifying employment. Be sure to find out more about this temporary waiver and take the necessary steps – you could be one of these borrowers!
Kaitlyn Dunphy is Associate Director of NJEA Member Rights and Legal Services on the NJEA Executive Office.