Biden’s Education Department just announced permanent steps to bring student-loan borrowers in targeted forgiveness programs closer to debt relief

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  • The Education Department announced permanent fixes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
  • They included one-time corrections to payment counts in PSLF, along with income-driven repayment plans.
  • This comes just days before the PSLF waiver expires on October 31 and isn’t being extended.

President Joe Biden’s Education Department just announced fixes to make student-loan forgiveness easier for borrowers to obtain — permanently.

Nearly one year ago, the Education Department announced reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is intended to forgive student debt for government and nonprofit workers after ten years of qualifying payments. Included in those reforms was a temporary waiver, expiring on October 31, that allowed any past payments, including those previously deemed ineligible, to count toward forgiveness progress.

While that waiver is not getting an extension, the department on Tuesday announced a series of permanent fixes to the program to help public servants benefit from this program going forward, along with borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which promise loan forgiveness after at least 20 years of payments. Specifically, the department will adjust a borrower’s account by giving them credit toward PSLF or IDR for:

  • Any month the borrower was in repayment, regardless of whether the payments were late
  • Any month the loans were in an eligible repayment, deferment, or forbearance status before consolidating
  • Months a borrower spent at least 12 consecutive months in forbearance
  • Months a borrower spent at least 36 cumulative months in forbearance
  • And any month spent in deferment prior to 2013.

This adjustment will be automatic, but the department noted that in order to receive this one-time account adjustment, borrowers with ineligible loans — any loan that is not a direct federal loan or a FFEL loan managed by the department — need to consolidate them no later than May 1, 2023. As part of the rulemaking process, this will not go into effect until July 2023. 

“Today, we’re encouraging public service workers to take advantage of the program’s temporary changes before the deadline on October 31,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “At the same time, we’re taking bold steps that will automatically move more hardworking public service workers closer to forgiveness and making permanent changes to reduce the red tape that riddled the PSLF program.”

Although the PSLF waiver is soon expiring, the account adjustment will give borrowers one more chance to get their payment counts corrected. Other PSLF improvements through regulations, to begin July 2023, include allowing borrowers to count late payments toward forgiveness progress, allowing deferment and forbearance periods to count, and simplifying criteria to the program to make it easier for borrowers to certify employment.

A department official noted during the press call that the waiver is not being extended because it “was a one-time action and it was connected with the circumstances our country was in a year ago. Our focus is on trying to fix this program permanently and for the long run.”

Still, the department recommends borrowers to apply for the PSLF waiver before October 31 to ensure they can benefit from it as soon as possible. The department noted that given the volume of applicants, “processing time is taking longer than normal but we will get to your PSLF form in the coming months.” Since it was implemented, the waiver has brought 236,000 public servants $14 billion in debt relief, and the department anticipates these permanent fixes will help continue that progress. 

“Starting next summer, these actions will move millions of qualified borrowers closer to forgiveness by crediting all their past payments,” Cardona told reporters on a Tuesday press call. “The results will be even more transformative, getting even more public servants closer to the forgiveness.”

This comes as the Biden administration is moving forward with its broad student-loan forgiveness plan. Although a federal appeals court recently placed a temporary stay on canceling any student debt until it makes a final decision on the legality of the plan, the department is continuing to encourage borrowers to apply for up to $20,000 in relief through the form on

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