The student loan forgiveness program designed to help indebted college graduates working in public service jobs has problems with loan servicers that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to correct.
According to a new CFPB report, “Staying on Track While Giving Back,” borrowers complain that servicers fail to inform them about eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, deny their eligibility after they’ve started working in public service and erroneously process payments during annual recertifications so those payments don’t qualify for loan forgiveness.
Under the program, borrowers with federal student loans who work as police officers, teachers, public defenders or in other public service jobs can have their loans forgiven, provided they are enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan such as an income-driven plan and make 120 loan payments. But problems with loan servicers often derail those plans.
“Borrowers have told us about student loan industry practices that delay or deny access to expected help such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We want those in public service jobs who give back to our communities to be able to stay on track, and not worry about unnecessary debt due to servicer errors.”
To that end, the CFPB has updated procedures for its examiners of student loan servicers to make sure they inform borrowers about what they need to qualify for the program and accurately calculate borrowers’ qualifying payments.
In addition, the CFPB has started a campaign called “Certify Your Service” to help eligible borrowers gain access to the program and stay on track for loan forgiveness, and it has updated tools for employers to help their employees enroll in such plans. It has also published new guides about the program for first responders and teachers, which complement guides already published for members of the military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other public services.
“Borrowers working in public service should not miss out on key consumer benefits because their student loan servicer failed to comply with the law,” Cordray said at an event Thursday in North Carolina.
The CFPB reports that more than 500,000 people have signaled their intention to pursue debt relief through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Eighty-six percent of them earn less than $75,000 a year and two-thirds earn less than $50,000 a year.
Starting this October, the first eligible borrowers could have their federal student loans forgiven under the plan, which began in 2007..
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