Government employees, like the man pictured above, are eligible to receive student loan forgiveness as part of the PSLF program.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report last week that estimated the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program will cost double what was projected over the next 10 years.
Over the next 10 years, the CBO projected that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will cost $24 billion, way more than the original projection. Just two years ago, the CBO estimated that the same program would only cost $12 billion.
Why the gross miscalculation? Many point towards actions by the Obama administration back in 2012 that made it easier for student loan borrowers to qualify for student loan forgiveness.
Many American student loan borrowers are eligible to qualify for public service student loan forgiveness. Public or nonprofit employees must make monthly student loan payments for 10 years, and after 10 years, the federal government will forgive their remaining student loan balance.
Having a “public service” job pertains to any job at any level of government, such as a public defense attorney, or any occupation at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This definition of public service includes 25 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Additionally, there is no limit to the amount of student loan debt that could be forgiven by the government. In theory, an undergraduate or graduate student could rack up hundreds of thousands in federal student loans to pay for their education and then simply have all that debt forgiven if they make timely payments for the required time.
The latest estimate by the CBO was part of a larger government budget analysis directed by President Trump, who has proposed ending PSLF for new borrowers. The Department of Education published data that showed roughly 60,000 new student loan debtors will enroll in Public Service Loan Forgiveness each quarter. Further statistics show that many PSLF participants were loaned more than $50,000 in federal student loans; one-third of that group borrowed upwards of $100,000.
Another problem with PSLF is that there are other such programs similar to it offered by the federal government. One such program is Income-Based Repayment, which allows for American student loan borrowers in low-paying public service jobs to make manageable monthly payments correlated to their income. After 20 years of Income-Based Repayment, a participant can qualify for full student loan forgiveness.
Student loan forgiveness programs offered by the federal government began in the 1950s. However, those programs were only extended to public employees, and they were much more narrow in scope. Also, the amount of debt that could be forgiven was limited to tiny amounts, like $5,000.
According to The Student Loan Report, the U.S. holds $1.41 trillion in student loan debt. There are 44,179,100 (70 percent of college students) student loan borrowers in the country, and each of them owes an average of $27,857 in student loans.
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