November 23, 2021

Cortez Masto Presses Department of Education to Act on Promised Overhaul of Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to Help Military Service Members

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) led fourteen of her Senate colleagues in a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the Biden Administration to implement changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that will make it easier for military service members to access benefits. The Department has already provided relief to many borrowers under the new rules, but the changes have not yet been fully implemented, and thousands of service members are in urgent need of aid.

In the letter, Cortez Masto and her colleagues call on the Administration to move quickly to implement these changes, saying, “These changes to PSLF will be critically important for service members, veterans, and their families. An estimated 200,000 service members collectively now owe more than $2.9 billion in student loans, and many of them planned their financial futures around the promise of eventual student debt relief. However, a recent Government Accountability Office report indicated that approximately 94 percent of service members and civilian employees of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) who previously applied for relief through the program have been denied.”

“During the current negotiated rulemaking process, we ask the Department to codify as many of the administrative improvements in regulation as possible,” the Senators concluded.                        

In October, the Department of Education announced an overhaul of the eligibility requirements for the PSLF program that would ensure service members don’t lose out on federal student aid due to their military service. These changes include new provisions to allow service members to count months spent on active duty toward PSLF, even if a service member’s loans were on a deferment at the time. Changes also include a new requirement that the Department of Education automatically give military members and federal employees credit for PSLF, instead of requiring them to go through a lengthy application process. The senators are also calling for these changes to be made official regulations, so that they cannot be reversed or rolled back in the future.

Senator Cortez Masto has been a longtime supporter of the PSLF program, cosponsoring legislation to allow more Americans to qualify for public service loan forgiveness and repeatedly urging the U.S. Department of Education to make improvements to the program.

The letter was signed by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Reverend Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The full text of the letter is available here.