The Department of Education has denied 99% of all student loan forgiveness applications.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is at it again.
She's been flouting a federal law that promises student loan forgiveness to people that go into public service professions, such as firefighters, a police officers, and teachers. But now, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has 1.7 million members, has sued DeVos to force her to obey the law.
The law is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). If public service employees make 120 on-time payments in 10 years, the balance of their loan is forgiven. It was signed into law in 2007 under George W. Bush and had bipartisan support. It was meant as an incentive to get people to go into professions where they often don't make enough money to pay off massive loans.
And it worked. Nearly 32 million people are eligible for PSLF. The year 2017 was the first one that people hit the 10-year mark and could apply for the loan forgiveness they'de been promised. By March 2019, 76,002 people had applied. Only 864 were approved, or around 1%.
Now, the teachers have had enough. As the president of the AFT, Randi Weingarten, put it: "Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a right, but Betsy DeVos has turned it into a crapshoot." Weingarten went on to say that DeVos's actions have "blocked [the] path to the middle class" for tens of thousands of people who were relying on loan forgiveness and made all their payments on time and in good faith.
The plaintiffs are teachers and other public service workers who made the required 120 on-time payments, only to be refused loan relief by the Department of Education. The lawsuit alleges that the Department used several techniques, such as miscounting payments or declaring applications incomplete, to deny the applications.
While some people may have had incomplete applications or failed to make 120 on-time payments, it's impossible that 99% of all applicants have done something wrong.
And it isn't as if DeVos has been subtle about her dislike of PSLF. For three years now, she has proposed eliminating the program.
This is part of a pattern for DeVos. Earlier in her tenure, she put policies in place that hamper regulators when doing their job of policing the student loan industry. She's working to further deregulate for-profit schools, which are notorious for ripping off veterans.
Teachers shouldn't have to sue Betsy DeVos just to get her to follow the law, but refusing to follow the law is a hallmark of this administration.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.