Hundreds of South Dakotans are wondering if the tens of thousands of dollars they owe on student debt that they were told would be forgiven after 10 years’ service to their communities, will actually be discharged. South Dakota News Watch Reporter Nick Lowrey has the story
Many South Dakotans, including teachers, police officers, employees at charitable organizations
and even members of the military have signed up to participate in the federal Public Service
Loan Forgiveness program.
Those public servants and teachers such as Jerica Slocum, who now owes the federal
government $20,000 more than she originally borrowed, are worried that they’ll be stuck paying
back a debt they wouldn’t owe if not for the promise of PSLF.
Created in 2007 under the George W. Bush Administration, the PSLF began as a way to
encourage college graduates to pursue public service by working in government or a charitable
non-profit such as the United Way.
The PSLF is supposed to forgive a person’s remaining student loan balances after they’ve
made 120 qualifying monthly payments, a period spanning roughly 10 years.
All 10 years must be spent working in public service.
But the program’s promise, so far, has largely gone un-kept.
The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Education, which is responsible for the
program, show just 518 of the roughly 76,000 fully processed PSLF forgiveness applications
had been approved as of March 31, 2019.
Loan forgiveness was intended to help offset lower wages typically found in public service jobs.
As of March 2019, about 2.1 million people nationwide had their jobs and loans certified as
eligible for PSLF.
Confusion and miscommunication appears to have been rampant in the program.
A 2017 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said borrowers often were giving
confusing, misleading or incomplete information.