The Department of Defense employs nearly 3 million people, many of whom carry the quintessential public service: serving in the military. But as of January last year, only 124 military personnel received their student loans under the government service loan forgiveness program.
This corresponds to roughly 9% of the military’s claims of debt forgiveness under the program – even better than the national overall success rate of 1%.
it according to the report published Thursday by the Government Accounts Service, which also found that 1,410 military personnel had applied for cancellation of their debt under the program.
A government service loan forgiveness forgives the remaining balance of direct loans after the borrower has made 120 matching monthly payments under the applicable repayment plan while working full time for the designated government service employer.
Moreover, 11% of the 176,906 active duty military personnel who already had loans eligible for forgiveness or loans that could be pooled to qualify completed the paperwork.
To be eligible for forgiveness, borrowers must participate in the correct type of student loan repayment program, not all of them are eligible; they need work in the right style work in the civil service, work in some non-profit organizations does not meet the requirements; they need to make monthly payments for 10 years; and they must have the correct type of federal student loan.
Among the military personnel who had their debts repaid, 34 were military personnel, 37 were the navy, 42 were the air force and 11 were from the marines. Overall, only 287 borrowers hired by the Ministry of Defense received debt cancellation under the program, out of 5,180 who submitted applications – 94% of refusals.
“When you think we’ve reached our limit when it comes to completely ineffectively managing a public service loan forgiveness program, you see reports like this,” said Seth Frothman, executive director of the Student Borrower Advocate Center, an attorney for borrowers. Group.
“It is truly a national shame to finally receive confirmation that only 124 military personnel have been forgiven more than ten years after the creation of this program.”
What’s more, the GAO found that only 11% of the 176,906 active duty military personnel who had loans already eligible for forgiveness, or loans that could be pooled for forgiveness, completed paperwork to put them on track. to get help.
Optimizing the process for these military personnel can be especially important. considering the requirements active duty soldier.
The GAO’s findings are the latest evidence of the challenges borrowers faced in gaining access to PSLF, an initiative that allows people working for the government and some nonprofit organizations to receive federal student loans after 10 years of payments and government employment.
PSLF struggled to deliver on its promises in its first tests.
The program, launched in 2007, barely lived up to its promises in the early stages of testing. When, after 10 years of existence, the first cohort of borrowers became eligible for loan repayments under the program in 2017, 99% of applications was refused.
Some of those closely following the program hoped that in the years since the initial cohorts of applicants, the proportion of those who have received approval for PSLF benefits will increase.
One of the main reasons for this prediction is that in the first few years of the program, the type of federal student loan issued to most borrowers is unforgivable under the PSLF unless the borrower consolidates their debt.
The first cohort of borrowers received the right to repay loans under the program in 2017, 99% of applications were rejected.
Borrowers who have taken out student loans since 2010 and therefore who will be the first to be eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF in 2020 were only issued loans that were eligible for the program.
According to Frotman, the improvement in performance is not an excuse for the damage already inflicted on borrowers. As the Student Loan Commissioner of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he warned potential problems faced by PSLF before the first cohort is forgiven.
In addition, a GAO report released on Thursday indicates that many of the hurdles that those early cohorts faced in seeking forgiveness persist. The Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
In his GAO answer by Mark Brown, Appointee Betsy DeVos who was the chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid Service at the Ministry of Education before leaving in March said the agency had agreed to the GAO’s proposals. He also highlighted the steps the agency has taken to simplify the PSLF, including creating a database that borrowers can use to find out if they are working for the right employer.
In the wake of the election campaign by President Joe Biden swore “Making loan forgiveness work for government officials,” and advocates are urging the administration to honor its commitments.
The promise is simple, but relief can be tricky
While the idea and promise of forgiving government service loans is relatively simple – work 10 years in government service, pay off your student loans for that period, and pay off the remaining amount – actually getting relief can be tricky.
Only direct loans are eligible for PSLF, but borrowers who have received family federal education loans can consolidate their debt into direct loans to qualify for assistance. For years, borrowers and advocates have argued that student loan servicing companies – companies that the government pays to manage the student loan repayment process – do not provide borrowers with enough or correct information to take advantage of this opportunity.
This means that in some cases, borrowers are employed in the public service and pay off their student debts, assuming they would be eligible for relax, just to find out after several years of payments, these efforts did not count towards the program.
In his response to the GAO report, Brown hinted that some of the Defense Department officials who asked for forgiveness but were rejected are in this situation.
Eighty percent of the denied applicants did not have a direct loan that had been repaid for at least 10 years, he wrote, adding, “although some of these borrowers may have received payments under the FFEL program during that time period. … ”
‘Full charge of the larger program’
Frotman said it is “a full blame against the larger program” that borrowers, who are clearly eligible for a government service loan forgiveness, are struggling to access promised aid.
“It’s clear that if you can’t do it right for the people who literally serve our country in active military service, there is now no doubt that you are also completely incompetent when it comes to everyone else,” he said.
“If you can’t do it right for the people who are literally serving our country in active military service, there is now no doubt that you are also completely incompetent when it comes to everyone else.”
The GAO invited the Ministry of Education to take steps to provide the Ministry of Defense with additional information on the personnel concerned and who have taken steps to continue the program. The agency also recommended that the Department of Defense provide its personnel with additional information on the PSLF.
But Frotman and other advocates have called on the Biden administration to go further. Coalition of 97 organizations sent a letter Education Minister Miguel Cardone earlier this week called on the Department to cancel the student debt of those who have served in the public service for at least 10 years.
For those currently serving or serving in the military, Frotman said the government should use its data on who has federal student loans and who served to ensure that those periods of service count towards eligibility for forgiveness.
“For those who have worked for 10 years, they will repay their loans tomorrow,” he said.
Frotman, who was a senior advisor to Holly Petraeus, then Assistant Director of Military Affairs at the Client Relations Bureau, before serving as student loans ombudsman at CFPB, urged the Department of Education to have a plan on Cardona’s desk to address these issues. day after the release of the report.
“This is completely unwarranted,” Frotman said of the challenges military borrowers face in obtaining student loan aid. “It is a priority to achieve this on behalf of the families of military personnel, dedicated civil servants. It should be in the spotlight. ”