Student-loan borrowers in public service have 3 more months to benefit from extra relief — and 2 Democratic lawmakers want to make that relief permanent

Student-loan borrowers in public service have 3 more months to benefit from extra relief — and 2 Democratic lawmakers want to make that relief permanent
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images
  • Last year, the Education Department announced temporary reforms to PSLF.
  • Sen. Menendez and Rep. Norcross introduced a bill to make reforms permanent for public servants.

Two Democratic lawmakers want to ensure public servants have all the time they need to access the student-loan forgiveness they were promised.

On Thursday, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross introduced the Second Chance at Public Service Loan Forgiveness Act, which aims to permanently reform the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, intended to forgive student debt for government and nonprofit workers after ten years of qualifying payments. Specifically, the legislation would codify recent — but temporary — reforms President Joe Biden's Education Department implemented last year to ensure any borrower who qualifies for the program will get loan forgiveness.

"From day one, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been plagued with issues and inadequate oversight, resulting in less than ten percent of applicants being approved for loan forgiveness despite their dedicated service to our nation," Menendez said in a statement.

"This legislation aims to fix these long-standing issues and deliver on the promise of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program by repaying those who dedicate their lives to serve and improve our communities with student loan forgiveness," he added. "This legislation will also improve recruitment and retention in key public service fields that have and continue to experience severe workforce shortages."

Leading up to Biden's presidency, 98% of borrowers who applied for PSLF were denied due to paperwork errors and student-loan company mismanagement of the program. That's why Biden's Education Department announced reforms to the program in October, including a waiver through October 31, 2022 that allows any prior payments — including those deemed ineligible — to count toward loan forgiveness progress. Menendez and Norcross' bill would codify some of those reforms and further improve the program by:


  • Allowing public servants with loans or any work in public service before 2007 (when the program was created) to qualify for PSLF
  • Eliminating the 120 payment requirement and only requiring ten years of public service work
  • Expanding current PSLF waiver beyond October 31, 2022
  • Ensuring borrowers or parents with PLUS loans who are also in public service can qualify
  • Clarifying full-time employment is at least 30 hours a week and ensuring adjunct or part-time higher education faculty can qualify
  • Expanding the definition of a public servant to include all eligible workers
  • And allowing teachers to simultaneously qualify for PSLF and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

The legislation gained the support of major unions including the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union, and it comes as the Education Department is working through the rulemaking process, which includes proposed reforms to programs like PSLF that are set to be implemented next year.

PSLF has gotten the attention of other Democratic lawmakers, as well, who are hoping to make up for the years of flaws within the program. For example, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation last month that would cut the number of qualifying payments in half and allow any prior payment to qualify toward forgiveness progress.

While many advocates and lawmakers are hoping the PSLF waiver won't expire anytime soon, Education Department officials have maintained messaging that borrowers should make use of it while they can. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has frequently encouraged borrowers on Twitter to use the waiver now, and while Federal Student Aid head Richard Cordray previously said he is "pushing hard to get approval if we can get it extended," he noted doing so could face challenges due to limits in executive authority.

Meanwhile, Biden is also in the process of making a decision on broad student-loan forgiveness for federal borrowers before payments are set to resume on September 1. As Insider previously reported, the Education Department has a lot on its plate over the next few months, and some lawmakers and advocates hope the expiring PSLF waiver won't be one of them.