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Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program wipes out Ohio member’s $40,000 debt

Photo credit: Ohio Council 8
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program wipes out Ohio member’s $40,000 debt
By AFSCME Staff and Council 8 ·

On May 9, Aaron Crane logged in to check his student loan balance – and was surprised to see the balance was $0.

The Ohio AFSCME member remembers refreshing the page several more times over the next few days, taking screenshots just to be sure. After almost 15 years of diligently paying back his student loans, Crane qualified for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) and had a nearly $40,000 balance zeroed out. 

The process took Crane, a member of AFSCME Local 2773 (Council 8), several years, but recent changes made by the Biden administration to PSLF have helped bring this long process to an end.

“It wasn’t easy checking and making sure I met all the requirements; keeping a close watch on what the rules were as they changed from year to year. I kept checking in and following up until I finally got everything in order to be on track to have my loans forgiven,” he said. “While it wasn’t a quick process, having my loans forgiven means that such a huge burden has been lifted from my family.”

Crane was initially working as a mortgage consultant after he graduated from college in 2007. But a desk job was not for him; instead, he felt called to public service.

Thus began his career with the Parks and Recreation departments, first with the City of Elyria and now with the City of Avon. Crane is proud of his work – his favorite job is maintaining baseball fields.

“I get a rush out of telling my kids that I help maintain that park that brings so much joy to people and I am looking forward to telling my grandkids that one day as well. It’s a legacy that I am proud of,” Crane said.

PSLF is a federal student loan relief program that was established in 2007. It was designed to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full time in public sector jobs.

Participation in the program generally requires the borrower to have a federal Direct Loan, be employed full-time by a qualified employer, and make 120 loan payments under a qualifying repayment plan. After meeting these requirements, the borrower’s remaining loans would 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 like Crane.

Meanwhile, Crane and his family are looking forward to their new financial freedom.

“I know it stressed my wife out,” he said. “It’s like this elephant in the room when we used to do our finances, but now it's like we have so many more opportunities and ways to care and support our family.”

Student Debt Resources

Learn more about PSLF and other loan forgiveness options by visiting the AFSCME Student Debt Resource Center. Additionally, check out AFSCME Free College, which enables AFSCME members and their loved ones to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees for free. 

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