Biden's Education Department has wiped out $8.1 billion in student debt for 145,000 borrowers following reforms to a loan forgiveness program

Biden's Education Department has wiped out $8.1 billion in student debt for 145,000 borrowers following reforms to a loan forgiveness program
President Joe Biden motions while boarding Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport after attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 11, 2022.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Biden implemented reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program last year.
  • As of June 1, 145,000 borrowers have gotten $8.1 billion in relief under the reforms.

More and more student-loan borrowers are getting relief through a debt forgiveness program for public service workers.

On Friday, President Joe Biden's Education Department released the latest data on progress made under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is intended to forgive student debt for public servants, like nonprofit and government workers, after ten years of qualifying payments. In October of last year, the department implemented a series of reforms, included a waiver that is running through October 31, 2022, that allows borrowers to count payments from any repayment plans toward loan forgiveness through PSLF, including programs and plans that were not previously eligible.

As of June 1, the department has approved $8.1 billion in relief for nearly 145,000 borrowers under that waiver. The department noted that some of those borrowers have already received relief while it is on the way for others who have not.

When the waiver was announced last year, the department said it would bring 550,000 borrowers closer to student-debt relief automatically — and other changes included making PSLF easier to access for Americans serving in the military and improving outreach to those who might be eligible for the program.

Biden is also in the process of making a decision on loan forgiveness for all federal borrowers — he is reportedly considering $10,000 in relief for those making under $150,000 a year and will likely announce the plan in July or August, closer to when payments are set to resume after August 31.


While the Education Department has touted progress made under PSLF, some advocates and lawmakers worry that the waiver is expiring too soon. A recent analysis from advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center found that while 9 million public servants are eligible for student-loan forgiveness, only 2% of them have actually gotten their debt wiped out — and fewer than 15% have filed paperwork to track their PSLF progress.

As a result of years of flaws and a high PSLF denial rate, some lawmakers have introduced legislation to permanently simplify the program. Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced a bill earlier this month that would reduce the number of qualifying payments to PSLF to 60 payments over five years and allow any prior student-loan payment to qualify toward forgiveness progress.

"The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program promised loan relief to Americans willing to pursue a career in public service," Whitehouse said in a statement. "Instead, they landed in a bureaucratic nightmare with no loan forgiveness in sight."

The department has not commented on whether it plans to extend the PSLF waiver.