Temporary changes to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, prompted in part by years of lobbying by the American Federation of Teachers and the UFT and the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the AFT, may allow UFT members to qualify for federal student loan debt relief even though they may not have been previously eligible. The U.S. Department of Education has issued a limited PSLF waiver that allows public servants — including city Department of Education employees — to apply for a case review and credit for years of past student loan payments through relaxed requirements now in effect through October 2022. The changes give public servants a new opportunity to reduce or eliminate their student debt burden.
We’ve compiled answers to some common questions about the new regulations, but the best way to learn more about these recent changes and your eligibility is to attend a seminar from the Student Debt Relief Program offered only to UFT members.
What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program?
Congress created PSLF in 2007 to provide an incentive for people to pursue a career in the public sector. Borrowers who qualify and successfully enter the program may see immediate reductions in their monthly payments and a shorter window for repayments over time. Borrowers who have worked full-time in public service for at least 10 years and have made 10 years — or 120 months — of qualifying payments on their student loans may see their federal student loan debt eliminated altogether.
Who is eligible?
People who work full-time for a government employer, such as the city Department of Education, may be eligible to apply. Whether you are a new hire or have been working for the DOE for decades, the union encourages you to speak with a loan expert in its Student Debt Relief Program to review the specifics of your case.
I previously applied for student loan forgiveness and was not successful at getting my debt reduced. Could I now be eligible?
The limited PSLF waiver offered by the U.S. Department of Education will help more people achieve loan forgiveness since more loan and payment types are now accepted. Prior to the waiver being issued, only federal Direct loans (Stafford loans, Direct consolidation loans, PLUS loans) were eligible. Until Oct. 31, 2022, all federal loan programs are now eligible, including Perkins loans, Federal Family Education Loans and non-Direct federal loans.
For those who apply, past payments toward the 120-payment requirement will now be retroactively credited, including previously nonqualifying loan payments such as those on graduated or extended repayment plans.
Upon request, the U.S. Education Department will also review previously denied PSLF applications for errors and will let borrowers have their forgiveness decisions be reconsidered.
Are private loans or Parent PLUS loans now eligible?
No, private and Parent PLUS loans are still ineligible for forgiveness.
Over the past decade, my loans were in deferment and/or forbearance at times. Do those periods of time count toward the required 120 qualifying payments?
No, periods of deferment or forbearance do not count toward the minimum 120 payments.
Do late or partial payments now count?
Yes, payments previously rejected due to lateness or because they were not made in full will be counted under these new temporary rules.
I already have received some loan forgiveness. Could I be eligible for additional debt relief?
Yes, you could earn additional loan forgiveness through this expanded eligibility, even if you have already had some of your debt forgiven.
I have been paying my loans back for more than 10 years. Could I receive a refund for payments I’ve already made?
If you are eligible for loan forgiveness under the new rules, you could receive a refund for payments that you made after making 120 payments.
How long do I have to take advantage of these relaxed rules and changes?
These changes are temporary. Borrowers have until Oct. 31, 2022, to submit their PSLF application and loan consolidation paperwork in order to be considered.
How can the UFT help me determine if I am eligible for loan forgiveness?
The UFT has forged a partnership with the National Student Debt Forgiveness Center, which conducts virtual Student Debt Relief Program seminars and consultations only for UFT members at no cost. After attending a seminar, you’ll be able to schedule a free phone consultation with a loan specialist from the program. You must be in front of your personal computer during the phone call.
During these free consultations, the loan consultant will conduct a comprehensive review of your personal student loan history, determine your eligibility for loan forgiveness and develop an action plan to help you move forward. UFT members can also receive additional services for a fee through the National Student Debt Forgiveness Center to help them navigate the complicated rules and regulations of loan forgiveness programs at discounted rates.
Is there any obligation to use these additional paid services?
No. After your free phone consultation, you will have two options:
- You can begin filling out forms and applying to the appropriate programs based on the action plan you received if you’re comfortable moving forward on your own.
- You can work with the National Student Debt Forgiveness Center, which can perform these services for you for a fee. UFT members receive discounted rates.
Do you have to be a teacher to qualify for student loan debt relief?
No, you do not. All full-time DOE employees, including paraprofessionals, can take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
How do I sign up for a virtual information session about the Student Debt Relief Program and learn more about the temporary changes to the PSLF program?
The UFT website lists all the upcoming seminars with a link to register.