OLYMPIA (April 14, 2022) – Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced a series of enhancements to civil service loan forgiveness (PSLF), which aims to provide student debt relief for borrowers who work full-time in the public service. The program, which started in 2018, has been roundly criticized for rejecting nearly 99 percent candidates under the Trump administration. But with the new changes, which have been motivated by a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of Teachers, there is new optimism that more borrowers can benefit from PSLF.
SB 5847, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Everett) – which was endorsed this year by the Washington State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee – will publicize the existence of this potentially life-changing program. lives of all Washington State public service employees. It will also improve the public employment certification process for PSLF applicants and, importantly, ensure that the time part-time college faculty spend on additional duties outside of the classroom counts towards their PSLF qualification as than public service employees.
The bill was strongly supported by AFT Washington, Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE), Washington Education Association, Washington Public Employees Association/UFCW 365 and other public employee unions. , as well as the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
The PSLF allows borrowers with direct federal loans who make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for an eligible employer to be forgiven the remainder of their balance. Eligible employers include all federal, state, local, or tribal governments, and many nonprofit organizations, including all 501(c)(3) organizations and a few others that provide qualifying services. Federal service includes U.S. military service.
WFSE recently profiled Anneliese Simon, a psychiatric social worker at Western State Hospital, who decided to attend the University of Washington Tacoma for a master’s degree in social work. Like her classmates, she pursued her studies as an investment in her future. For the past 15 years, she has worked to pay off the $55,000 in loans she accumulated while in school.
She had previously tried to take advantage of the PSLF, but was rejected.
“They were super picky before,” she said. “They would turn people down for technicalities.”
But that changed last fall after the DOE instituted its reforms. When Simon heard about the PSLF reforms, she decided to try again.
“Even if you don’t think you qualify, give it a try,” she said. “The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. I spent probably 20 minutes applying and got $11,000 in loans forgiven.
A key change made by the DOE was a temporary waiver that allows applicants to “receive credit for past (student loan) repayment periods that would otherwise not be eligible for the PSLF.” This waiver, which allows thousands more public service workers to qualify for the PSLF this year, expires on October 31, 2022. This is why SB 5847 included an emergency clause and was implemented. immediately with Inslee signing on March 30.
Are you a civil servant likely to benefit from the PSLF? Check out these resources to learn more and check your eligibility:
● Public Service Loan Relief (PSLF) website
● Information on the PSLF derogation
● Forgive my student debt website
● AFT’s “Summer” online resource for managing student loans
● How to Apply for the WFSE PSLF: Resources and Tips
With all that public service workers do for our communities, student debt relief is an important step in rewarding them for their hard work and dedication.