(NEXSTAR) – More than nine million Americans could qualify for federal student loan forgiveness under a program already in place, according to a new estimate.
The Center for the protection of student borrowers has published a new report Thursday which looked at government data and found that millions of public service workers are likely eligible for debt cancellation through the Cancellation of civil service loans program, but have not yet filed the documents to start the process.
The Civil Service Loan Cancellation Program, or PSLF, was created in 2007 to help employees of non-profit and government organizations get their student loans forgiven after ten years of payments (120 payments in total). The overall approval rating among applicants was low – only 1 in 5 of the 1.3 million borrowers seeking to discharge their debts through PSLF were on track to see relief by 2026, according to a September 2021 report from The Washington Post.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced a change that temporarily waives some PSLF requirements to provide borrowers with credit toward loan forgiveness, regardless of their federal loan type or they had been enrolled in a specific payment plan. This waiver is currently due to expire after October 31, 2022.
As of early May 2022, the federal student aid office reports that only about 127,000 borrowers were eligible for a rebate under the PSLF’s limited waiver.
Of the nine million public service workers, according to the SBPC, who are eligible for a rebate under the PSLF, less than 15% have even filed paperwork to track their progress toward debt cancellation. California, Texas, Florida and New York have the most public service workers with student loan debt, according to SBPC.
The Department of Education has not yet responded to Nexstar’s request for comment regarding SBPC’s report.
What you need to know about qualifying for the PSLF
As explained above, the PSLF aims to grant eligible civil servants debt forgiveness after a certain number of payments.
Eligible borrowers to have to:
- Be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or nonprofit organization (federal service includes U.S. military service)
- Work full-time for this agency or organization
- Have direct loans (or consolidate other federal student loans into one direct loan)
- Make 120 qualifying payments
Under the current PSLF exemption, eligible borrowers can receive credit for payments made on other types of loans, under any payment plan, before consolidation or after the due date. . Those who have received the teacher loan forgiveness can apply for the period of service that led to their PSLF eligibility, if they can certify PSLF employment for that period.
How to determine if you qualify
The first step in determining your eligibility is to visit the FSA website. website and logging into your account. You will be able to search for your employer in the FSA database and add information about your employment. Once you have found your employer, you will be able to see if they are eligible for the PSLF.
Then, according to SBPC Walkthrough Guide, you will need to determine the type of federal student loan you have. Direct loans are eligible for the PSLF while other loans must be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Until the end of October 2022, previous eligible payments you have made on a non-direct loan will count towards the 120 necessary payments that PSLF requires for forgiveness.
Once you have completed the steps above, you will need to confirm your employment. You should then be able to submit your PSLF form.
The FSA has created a help tool to guide borrowers in filling out the form.
Who is eligible for already approved student loan forgiveness?
Although widespread student loan forgiveness has yet to become a reality, some US borrowers have already received debt relief. About 1.3 million borrowers have seen $25 billion in student debt forgiveness since President Biden took office.
So far, thousands of borrowers have received $6.8 billion in debt forgiveness “thanks to PSLF improvements”, according to the Department of Education. About 690,000 other borrowers saw a total of $7.9 billion in student loans forgiven through releases due to borrower defenses and school closures. More than 400,000 borrowers have received more than $8.5 billion in debt forgiveness through total and permanent disability release.
Biden will likely announce his plans for more widespread student debt forgiveness in July or August, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
WXIN’s Matt Adams contributed to this report.