If you’ve got student loans and have been having trouble getting the public-service loan forgiveness you were promised, Washington state’s attorney general wants to hear from you.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF, was created in 2007 to relieve the burden of student loan debt for borrowers who commit to spending 10 years working for government agencies or certain kinds of nonprofits, are making timely income-based payments on the debt during that 10 years and who meet other program requirements.
Efforts to take advantage of the offer have soured in recent years.
By the end of 2017, 802,040 borrowers had registered for the program, up from 334,708 in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to U.S. Department of Education data.
However, the Education department has acknowledged that it has so far approved only 1% of the applications.
That’s not fair, says Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is urging student loan borrowers who have had trouble with public service loan forgiveness to submit a complaint to his office.
“With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the federal government made a deal with students,” Ferguson said. “For a decade, these borrowers have upheld their part of the bargain by using their talent and skills for the public benefit. However, the refusal rates we’re seeing are frankly alarming.”
Borrowers across the nation who meet all the requirements have run into problems with enrollment in the program, have had trouble getting good information from their student loan servicer, or have had their application for forgiveness denied, Ferguson said in a news release this week.
Student debt impacts across the United States are enormous, with credit.com reporting that $1.52 trillion is owed on student loans nationwide.
According to Ferguson, 53% of student loan borrowers report that student loan debt was the deciding factor in, or had considerable impact on, their choice of career field.
Two years ago, the Attorney General’s Office proposed the Student Loan Transparency Act, a bill that requires schools to provide students with basic information about their student loans. In 2018, Ferguson successfully introduced the Student Loan Bill of Rights, meant to provide protections for Washington’s more than 800,000 student-loan borrowers, which passed both chambers of the state Legislature with bipartisan support.
In addition, Ferguson has so far filed two lawsuits against the federal government to defend student loan protections, including one in which a federal judge ruled that the Department of Education improperly delayed borrower defense protections.
He also recovered almost $1.5 million for borrowers from debt-adjustment companies that charged fees to help borrowers consolidate their federal student loans and enroll in income-driven repayment plans, assistance that his office successfully argued should be free.
In January, the Attorney General’s Office secured more than $7 million in relief for students who fell victim to what Ferguson described as the deceptive practices of the online school Career Education Corporation.
For more information on navigating student debt, the Attorney General’s Office provides a Student Loan Survival Guide.