The U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced that, as of the beginning of May 2023, it has approved a total of $42 billion in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for more than 615,000 borrowers since October 2021. This is a result of the temporary PSLF changes made by the Biden-Harris Administration that made it easier for borrowers to reach forgiveness. At the end of the previous Administration, only about 7,000 borrowers had been approved for the PSLF program.
Additionally, the Department is announcing the implementation of improvements to the PSLF Help Tool, which borrowers use to apply for the program. These updates will, for the first time, let borrowers complete the entire PSLF application process online, and borrowers will no longer need to fax or mail in their application with a wet signature. Allowing borrowers to submit e-signatures for themselves and request e-signatures from their employers will significantly decrease processing time. In addition, borrowers can now digitally track the status of their PSLF form in the My Activity section of their StudentAid.gov account, where they can see updates such as whether their employer has digitally signed their PSLF form and when their form has been processed. This upgrade is in addition to the Biden-Harris Administration’s long-term improvements to the PSLF program, slated to take effect in July 2023, which will provide lasting benefits for borrowers.
“Since Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has worked relentlessly to fix a broken student loan system, including by making sure we fulfill the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness for those who have spent a decade or more serving our communities and our country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “To date, the Biden-Harris team has kept that promise for more than 615,000 teachers, nurses, social workers, servicemembers, and other public servants by approving a combined $42 billion in student loan debt forgiveness. The difference that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is making in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans reminds us why we must continue doing everything we can to fight for borrowers and why families cannot afford to have progress derailed by partisan politicians. During Public Service Recognition Week—and every week—we thank all those who serve our communities.”
The targeted debt relief announced today is part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to ensure that the PSLF program fulfills the promise made to Americans who enter public service and that they receive the debt forgiveness they have earned by serving their communities and the country. Public Service Recognition Week celebrates individuals who serve the United States and local communities as an employee of Federal, state, local, or tribal government.
PSLF is one of several student loan forgiveness programs established by law. It supports public employees—such as teachers, firefighters, and members of law enforcement, as well as those who work for a non-profit organization in a variety of fields—by forgiving the remaining federal student loan balance for those who work in public service and make the required 120 qualifying monthly payments.
Borrowers across the country have benefited from the Department’s efforts to ensure that all public servants can more easily access this targeted debt relief. Of the nearly 616,000 borrowers whose loans have been approved for forgiveness, nearly 610,000 borrowers have already seen their loans discharged, and the rest will soon follow.
In addition to the borrowers who have been approved for forgiveness, more than two million borrowers now have an approved PSLF Form and are on the path to forgiveness. More public service employees around the country continue to apply as they become aware of the PSLF Program.
Continuously Improving the PSLF Help Tool
The Department remains committed to making it easier for borrowers to know if they are eligible for PSLF, certify their employment, apply for forgiveness, and track their progress. For the first time since the program began, borrowers can now sign and submit their PSLF form digitally and track its status throughout the process.
“FSA is making the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program as easy as possible so all public servants can finally get the loan forgiveness they have earned,” said Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray. “The improved PSLF Help Tool is another step forward to modernize and simplify the process for people who rely on us to carry out the law effectively.”
In the past, borrowers had to take multiple steps to complete and submit their PSLF Form. In most cases, they had to print and sign their form, obtain signatures on the printed form from one or more employers, then submit the completed form and related documents by mail or fax. Now, borrowers can complete the entire process digitally on StudentAid.gov via the PSLF Help Tool.
The newly updated PSLF Help Tool enables borrowers to sign and submit their PSLF form digitally; identify employers that need to sign the form and request an e-signature; and track the status of their form. These major changes to the PSLF application process are improving the experience both for public servants and for the employers who need to certify their employment.
Long-term Improvements to PSLF Program Through Regulations
In October 2022, the Department announced final regulations for the PSLF Program that will deliver lasting improvements for borrowers. These improvements will go into effect July 1, 2023, and are detailed in this fact sheet. The improvements include:
- helping borrowers earn progress toward PSLF,
- simplifying criteria to help borrowers certify qualifying employment, and<
- providing opportunities for borrowers to get help correcting PSLF account problems.
Borrowers with Direct Loans who work in public service are also likely to benefit from the one-time account adjustment announced by the Department last year. Borrowers with other types of federal loans have until the end of 2023 to consolidate into the Direct Loan program to receive credit for qualifying payments under this adjustment.
In addition to this one-time account adjustment, the Department also announced earlier this year new proposed regulations that would transform income-driven repayment (IDR) plans to better serve borrowers. The regulations would create the most affordable IDR plan that has ever been available to student loan borrowers, allowing those with incomes under $30,500, or under $62,400 in a family of four, to qualify for $0 monthly payments. They will also simplify the program and eliminate common pitfalls that delay borrowers’ progress toward forgiveness.
Historic Progress on Targeted Loan Relief
The PSLF approvals announced today are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broad efforts to support students and provide more than $66 billion in targeted loan relief to nearly 2.2 million borrowers so far, with more on the way. Actions include:
- Establishing a fair and accessible bankruptcy discharge process to help struggling borrowers discharge their federal student loans.
- Providing $9.1 billion in relief for 425,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability.
- Approving $14.5 billion in borrower defense claims to nearly 1.1 million borrowers whose schools were found to have cheated them out of their promised education, including extending full relief to approved claims and approving new types of claims.
- Providing $1.26 billion in closed school discharges to 107,000 borrowers who attended the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute, which failed to deliver on the promises it made to students.
- Restoring eligibility for federal student aid to almost 7.5 million borrowers to help them get back on track to complete their credential or degree.