Imagine if, after graduating from college with a five- or six-figure student loan debt, you learned you could enroll in a government program that would allow a portion of your debt to be forgiven in exchange for 10 years of work at a broad range of public-service jobs, from nonprofits to government agencies.
This was the promise of the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act.
The program offered a track for recent grads to escape debt obligations and provided an incentive for graduates to fulfill urgently needed — and usually low-paying — positions serving the public in one way or another.
Now imagine that, after spending the early years of your career working for less money in public service in exchange for debt forgiveness, you find out that the government had decided to retroactively retract the offer — even though you received letters of approval confirming that your job qualified you.
This nightmare scenario is the actual situation confronting a number of PSLF program recipients, who last December were compelled to file a lawsuit, joined by the American Bar Association, to get the Department of Education (DoE) to keep its promises.
“With no warning and no coherent explanation, the Department […] changed its mind” regarding its past approval of a number of individuals to the program, the suit explains. “As a result, these individuals were told that their years of public service counted for naught, their debt loads continued to mount, and their hopes of future financial security were suddenly dashed.”
The finer details of the case are a bit more narrow, and not every PSLF beneficiary has been threatened with revocation of their eligibility. …read more