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Kaine Applauds Education Department’s Announcement To Strengthen PSLF Program And Provide Public Servants With Needed Student Loan Relief

Following Kaine’s Urging, Dept. Of Education Will Overhaul Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement applauding the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement that it will begin reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and bring over 550,000 public servants closer to loan forgiveness. The Department will temporarily expand eligible loans and qualifying payment plans for borrowers, take steps to eliminate barriers for military service members and federal employees, and improve outreach to PSLF applicants. PSLF was created by Congress in 2007 to incentivize more students to enter public service by providing loan forgiveness after 10 years of working full-time for a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization or certain nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, flawed implementation of the PSLF program by the U.S. Department of Education and eligibility “donut holes” have resulted in 98 percent of all public servants who have applied for forgiveness being denied relief.  

“I’m glad to see the Department of Education heeded our calls and is taking serious steps to eliminate the barriers that have kept too many teachers, social workers, firefighters, service members and community health care workers, along with many other public servants, from receiving the student loan forgiveness they have worked toward and deserve,” said Senator Kaine. “While more long-term fixes to the PSLF program are still necessary, this is a first step in the right direction. As a member of the Senate HELP Committee, I will keep fighting to ensure that the program delivers on its promise to cancel public servants’ student loan debt and allow these public service professionals to pursue their dreams.”

In May 2021, Senator Kaine led his colleagues in a bicameral letter urging the Department of Education to take action to waive or modify counterproductive restrictions, barriers, and donut holes in PSLF — including by expanding the definition of “eligible loan” to provide relief for borrowers with any type of federal student loan and prior payments on consolidation loans; broadening the definition of a qualifying payment plan for all borrowers; waiving the restriction that a borrower be employed in public service at the time of forgiveness; and establishing data-sharing agreements to automatically qualify borrowers for PSLF using administrative data. In addition, Senator Kaine joined Senate colleagues this summer in sending another letter to the Department of Education, urging Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to extend student debt relief in the Department’s higher education rulemaking, including closing donut holes and improving eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  

In 2018, Senator Kaine successfully passed a provision based on his legislation to allow loan forgiveness for public service borrowers who ended up in the wrong repayment plan.

Senator Kaine has also introduced legislation to overhaul the PSLF program and guarantee that millions of teachers, social workers, members of the military, first responders, nurses, and many other public service professionals qualify for the loan forgiveness they have earned. Specifically, this legislation would: 

  • Allow all types of federal loans to qualify. 
  • Allow all federal repayment plans to qualify. 
  • Ensure that the Department of Education provides public servants with clearer information and guidance. 
  • Allow borrowers to receive a partial forgiveness benefit after five years of public service. 
  • Simplify the application and certification process.