Student Loan Forgiveness Overhaul Could Mean Big Changes for PA Educators
Thursday, October 7, 2021
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Major changes are on their way to the U.S. Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which could have a big impact on some of Pennsylvania's educators.
The program was created in 2007 and meant to provide student-loan relief to public-service workers, including teachers, paraprofessionals and professors, but it has long been plagued by bureaucratic issues that have made it difficult to qualify.
The changes announced Wednesday allow eligible borrowers to complete a waiver to count all payments toward the forgiveness program, regardless of the loan program or payment plan.
Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, said the department is ready to right the wrongs inflicted on teachers across the country.
"We want to make sure that we're doing everything in the agency to protect our borrowers, our students," Cardona pledged. "We serve our students. We have to make that clear, not only in our talk, but in our actions. You've done so much to help our community. You were made a promise, and it's now our turn to deliver on that promise."
Pennsylvania has the second-highest average student debt in the country, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.
Under the program, the remainder of your student debt is forgiven once 120 monthly payments have been made while working full-time for a nonprofit or government employer.
Jessica Giordano, course director of the genetic counseling program at Columbia University, graduated in 2008, and when she checked in on her student-loan forgiveness in 2017, she was told she enrolled in the wrong loan plan and was not eligible.
Giordano said going forward, she hopes the forgiveness program is simplified.
"If you're making your payments and been responsible and doing your work, I think it should just be streamlined and easy," Giordano contended. "Because this complexity just makes it seem like the government doesn't actually want to forgive the loans."
Challenges still remain for the forgiveness program as the Pennsylvania Higher Education Association, which operates one of the Department of Education's main student loan servicers, FedLoan, will not renew its contract with the federal government when it expires in December. According to the most recent data available from 2019, 65% of Pennsylvania college graduates have student debt.
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