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More than 9 million public service workers eligible for federal student debt forgiveness

Photo credit: Getty Images
By Omar Tewfik ·

A new analysis conducted by the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) estimates that upwards of 9 million public service workers could be eligible for student debt forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program or PSLF.

AFSCME is partnering with SBPC and allies in the labor movement to increase awareness among public service workers about federal student loan relief under PSLF and ensure everyone who is eligible can benefit. AFSCME launched a student debt resource page with resources to help our members in public service workers navigate the loan forgiveness program.

PSLF is a federal student loan relief program established in 2007 designed to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full time in public sector jobs. Participation in the program generally requires that the borrower have a federal Direct Loan, be employed by a qualified employer on a full-time basis and make 120 loan payments under a qualifying repayment plan. Upon meeting these requirements, the borrower’s loans are to be forgiven. 

But until recently, the process for qualifying for loan forgiveness under PSLF was so difficult and opaque that only a handful of public service workers got any relief. Then, in October 2021, the Biden administration created a temporary waiver program – which AFSCME members advocated for – that drastically expanded the amount of public service workers who are eligible to have their debt forgiven. As a result, more than 100,000 public service workers have had their debt wiped clean, including AFSCME members.

Nevertheless, according to the SBPC analysis, that means that only 2% of those eligible for the program have received the relief they have earned. The temporary waiver program is set expire on Oct. 31, 2022, so borrowers must act fast to take advantage of it.

In the meantime, AFSCME and our allies are calling for increased measures to help get the word out and extend the waiver deadline.

“You don’t get into public service to get rich, and those who step up and put their communities first should not be locked into a never-ending spiral of student loan debt,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “We owe it to these everyday heroes to ensure that every eligible borrower gets access to the relief they have earned for their service to our communities.”

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