This story is developing.

A new proposal calls on President Joe Biden to cancel student loans for all public servants who serve at least 10 years—even if they don’t meet the requirements.

Here’s what you need to know.

Student loans

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was intended to help borrowers who work in public service or a non-profit for at least 10 years to get their federal student loans forgiven. However, since borrowers first became eligible for student loan forgiveness in 2017, about 98% of applicants have been rejected. That’s not a typo. The Student Borrower Protection Center, a leading student loans advocacy organization, says the student loan forgiveness program not only should be overhauled, but that Biden’s Education Department should take a more proactive stance: cancel federal student loans for public servants who serve for at least 10 years—regardless if they completed the necessary requirements.

“Washington broke its promise to a generation of public service workers with far reaching consequences for workers, their communities, and our country,” Seth Frotman, executive director at the Student Borrower Protection Center, said. “Teachers, healthcare providers, and millions of others who served on the front lines of America’s pandemic response deserve better than more red tape and bureaucracy– they need [Education] Secretary [Miguel] Cardona to use his power under the law to deliver the relief promised by Congress more than a decade ago.”


Student loan cancellation: 10 years of service

Today, 97 student, consumer, public interest, civil rights, higher education, public health, workforce, professional, military, and faith organizations representing millions of public service workers and student loan borrowers sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona calling on the Department of Education to conduct an immediate 90-day review of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cancel the student loan debt of all public service workers who have completed ten or more years of service. The signatories want a simpler, more streamlined way for student loan borrowers to get student loan forgiveness.

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According to the letter, their student loans should be cancelled even if they don’t meet the necessary requirements for public service loan forgiveness: “Regardless of borrowers’ loan type, loan status, or repayment plan, the Department of Education must recognize and reward borrowers’ service, consistent with congressional intent.” The letter suggests that Congress should eliminate the requirements for public service loan forgiveness and instead make it automatic once public servants complete at least 10 years of service. Created by Congress in 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is not automatic for every public servant or non-profit employee. For example, the program has several requirements, including full-time employment, at least 120 monthly student loan payments on-time and in-full, enrollment in an eligible income-driven driven repayment plan. Student loan borrowers who meet the requirements are eligible to get student loan forgiveness on all their federal student loans.


Student loan forgiveness: more tips

Currently, this is only a proposal. Student loan borrowers still need to meet the requirements of the program. If you are currently pursuing, or plan to pursue, public service loan forgiveness, here are some more tips to make the process for student loan forgiveness easier:

1. Use this student loan forgiveness tool

To qualify for public service loan forgiveness, you must work full-time (at least 30 hours a week) for a qualified public service or non-profit employer. Don’t assume that your employer qualifies because you “work in public service.” Use this student loan forgiveness tool from the U.S. Department of Education to verify whether your employer is eligible.

2. Choose the best income-driven student loan repayment plan

It’s important to select the best income-driven repayment plan for you and then make a majority of your qualifying monthly payments while enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. There are four major income-driven repayment plans: Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR).


3. Consolidate federal student loans

Remember, only Direct student loans qualify for public service loan forgiveness. If you have Perkins Loans, FFELP Loans, or you borrowed student loans before 2011, you may need to consolidate these federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. 


Pay off student loans

As you navigate student loan repayment, here are some potential options to consider:


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