When the PSLF program was created, total student debt was around $550 billion, says Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. “We were worried about the impact student debt was having on the viability of those entering and staying in public service fields,” Frotman says. “It’s even more important that this program works in light of where we find ourselves today — facing a $1.7 trillion student debt crisis.”
The department has pursued quick fixes before, like combining employment eligibility forms with the application and temporarily expanding eligibility for select borrowers. But the Department of Education acknowledged in a June 2021 memo that those efforts haven’t been enough to curb “confusion and frustration.”
“There are a lot of people who were paying on their federal loans, working in a qualifying job, believing they were working toward forgiveness only to find out, when they eventually submitted an application, that they had the wrong type of loan, like a FFEL loan, or they were not in the right type of repayment plan,” says Bradley Custer, senior policy analyst for higher education at the Center for American Progress, a public policy think tank.
What’s new for borrowers seeking PSLF
Under the new PSLF limited waiver, borrowers who worked full time for a qualifying public service employer can get prior loan payments counted toward PSLF, even if payments were: