New Public Service Loan Forgiveness Flexibility Will Allow Many More TRIO Staff to Qualify for Loan Forgiveness

October 8, 2021

On Wednesday, October 6, the Department of Education announced updates to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to make more TRIO educators and other public service workers eligible for student loan forgiveness after 10 years of student loan payments. TRIO staff members and alumni in other public service jobs have until October 31, 2022 (next year) to apply for this one-time flexibility.

[Click for a step-by-step guide on how to qualify for the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness flexibility, or how to apply for the first time].

The new changes will allow more than 500,000 public service workers to make more progress toward full loan forgiveness. These updates include:

  • Allow student loan borrowers to count all types of past federal loan payments toward the 120 required monthly payments to earn forgiveness — including loans and payments plans that were not previously eligible.
  • Make it easier to certify eligible public service employment to count toward the requirements.
  • Review denied PSLF applications to correct errors and continue the process.
  • Develop a communications plan to provide outreach to eligible public service workers.

Background: Established by Congress in 2007, PSLF was intended to help federal student loan borrowers earn loan forgiveness after 120 monthly student loan payments (10 years) while working in a public service job in education, government, or a nonprofit organization, including TRIO educators. However, due to bureaucratic mismanagement and poor communication, fewer than 5% of eligible public service workers were able to make it through the program’s requirements and have their loans forgiven.

Hundreds of TRIO educators shared their stories of crushing student debt and challenges with PSLF, in response to COE’s survey. Among the survey’s findings, student debt has placed a severe burden on TRIO educators' current financial situation — especially during the pandemic. Student debt has caused more than two-thirds of TRIO educators to consider leaving TRIO or public service, among survey respondents. Very few eligible TRIO educators have been able to make it through the PSLF program to have their loans forgiven.

Last month, COE President Maureen Hoyler wrote to Secretary Cardona, sharing your stories, survey results, and recommendations to urge changes to the program. The Department included key elements of COE’s recommendations in this announcement, and will also continue negotiated rulemaking to make permanent changes to improve PSLF. Thank you to the many TRIO educators for sharing your stories!