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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

Members of Illinois Delegation Express Concern Over Implementation of Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

May 3, 2019
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley led members of the Illinois House Delegation in a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos expressing their concerns about the implementation of the Department’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Established in 2007, PSLF promised to forgive up to 100 percent of federal student loan debt if a recipient makes 10 years’ worth of payments and works full time in a public service career. The first borrowers became eligible for loan forgiveness in 2017 however, a recent report from the Department of Education showed that fewer than one percent of the 28,000 applicants to the program were approved in its first year. The letter calls on the Department of Education to produce a timeline for outreach to direct loan borrowers and to fully digitize the PSLF application process. Co-signers of the letter included Representatives Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly, Dan Lipinski, Jesús “Chuy” García, Danny Davis, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jan Schakowsky, Bill Foster, Sean Casten, Brad Schneider, and Cheri Bustos.

The members wrote, “…a great many dedicated public servants who relied on this program will not be able to receive relief due to years of unclear standards, confusing procedures, and a lack of meaningful guidance from the Department. The Department’s mishandling of this program has led to confusion and inconsistent information for borrowers who simply want to serve the public and relied on the student debt relief promised by this program in dedicating their careers to helping their communities.”

Last year, Congress established a temporary relief program to serve the many public servants who were unexpectedly unable to benefit from PSLF. Once again, fewer than one percent of applicants to this new program were able to qualify, leaving $690 million appropriated by Congress for this program unspent.

“Whether it is police officers, firefighters, teachers, or the many other dedicated public servants serving our communities, we know that PSLF has had a tremendous positive impact, helping to recruit and retain talented and dedicated people to pursue these careers that are so critical to the health and welfare of our country. People seeking public service positions make what are often significant financial sacrifices to pursue these career paths,” continued the members.

Read the full text of the letter below. A PDF copy is available here.

The Honorable Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

On behalf of our constituents, the Illinois Congressional delegation writes to express our serious concerns about the Department of Education’s implementation of the critically needed Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

As we feared, the Department of Education’s own data shows that in the first year of the program’s eligibility, less than 1% of the over 28,000 applicants received loan forgiveness, which was only 96 people. While we understand that many of these individuals may be able to remedy the reasons that they were initially rejected and that some may not have qualified, a great many dedicated public servants who relied on this program will not be able to receive relief due to years of unclear standards, confusing procedures, and a lack of meaningful guidance from the Department. The Department’s mishandling of this program has led to confusion and inconsistent information for borrowers who simply want to serve the public and relied on the student debt relief promised by this program in dedicating their careers to helping their communities.

Because so many dedicated public servants unexpectedly were unable to benefit from the PSLF program, Congress set up a temporary relief program last year that was funded at $700 million for borrowers who believed in good faith that they were making qualifying PSLF payments. Once again, however, the Department has created unreasonable barriers to entry to this new program, and unclear qualification standards. As a result, only 262 people of the over 38,000 people who applied for this program received relief, and only a total of $10.6 million in loans were forgiven – leaving $690 million of the amount Congress appropriated on the table. Our delegation is very concerned that both of these programs continue to fall far short of what was promised to dedicated public servants and the communities they serve, in Illinois and throughout the country.

Whether it is police officers, firefighters, teachers, or the many other dedicated public servants serving our communities, we know that PSLF has had a tremendous positive impact, helping to recruit and retain talented and dedicated people to pursue these careers that are so critical to the health and welfare of our country. People seeking public service positions make what are often significant financial sacrifices to pursue these career paths. The weight of growing educational debt can easily turn that financial sacrifice into a longer-term financial struggle, and PSLF has helped to encourage talented and dedicated individuals to pursue and remain in these careers.

For these reasons, we request a timeline on the Department's plan to use appropriated outreach funds to reach all Direct Loan borrowers about PSLF and fully digitize the employment certification and application process. Our constituents, and communities across Illinois, rely on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for financial security. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

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