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Last chance for Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver

By Sylvia Saunders



ime is running out. If you have a federal student loan and work for a public or non-profit employer, you could have your entire student debt balance forgiven. But you must act now. Oct. 31 is the deadline to take advantage of the waiver that relaxes Public Service Loan Forgiveness rules.

The good news: So far, the U.S. education department reports that it has approved more than $13 billion in debt relief for more than 211,000 public service workers.

The bad news: Officials estimate that fewer than half of eligible borrowers have applied.

“We’re trying to get the word out to everyone,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “Thousands of members have attended NYSUT’s student loan debt webinars. We want our members to get the relief they deserve.”

PSLF erases the federal student loan debt of education employees, including custodians, social workers, nurses, higher education professional staff and other public service workers after 10 cumulative years of service and 120 qualifying monthly payments. The program was created in 2007, but only about 2 percent of applicants were approved.

After unions pushed hard for changes, the Biden administration last fall announced a big overhaul of the PSLF system, including the temporary waiver that relaxes the rules and expands the kind of payments that count.

Apply now! The PSLF waiver expires Oct. 31

The waiver allows borrowers to get credit for past payments even if they didn’t make the payment on time, didn’t pay the full amount due, or weren’t on the right repayment plan. The USDOE will even count certain periods of deferment and forbearance toward PSLF.

If you qualify for PSLF but retired without putting your paperwork in, you can still file for loan forgiveness under the waiver. If you received a prior rejection, you can refile, with the possibility that payments that weren’t counted will be.

If you haven’t worked 10 years in public service, it is recommended that you still apply now to ensure that any payments that did not count prior to the limited waiver are counted toward your qualifying 120 payments. After Oct. 31, normal PSLF rules will apply.

To submit your PSLF form, go to studentaid.gov/pslf. You’ll also find resources at studentloans.nysut.org or the state’s information page, dfs.ny.gov.

Tim Murray, Teachers Association of Cheektowaga-Sloan

Tim Murray headshot
Tim Murray
For band teacher Tim Murray, tens of thousands of dollars in Public Service Loan Forgiveness has been life changing.

“The pandemic payment suspension coupled with PSLF has allowed me to finally afford my first house and start paying down my private student loan debt more aggressively,” he said.

“Now when that check engine light comes on, it’s not necessarily a guaranteed existential crisis.”

Murray is grateful for union advocacy and the Biden administration for making loan forgiveness a reality.
Thanks to the relaxed rules, Murray’s time as a long-term substitute and those years of payments that never counted before suddenly did. He was also able to count his time in a graduated payment plan and during forebearance, when he couldn’t afford his payments.

While Murray’s elated to see that zero balance, he is also proud.

“This isn’t some lottery I won; I earned this by paying high monthly payments for a decade. My monthly payments were my second-highest expense after rent,” Murray said.

“The narrative of people going to insanely expensive schools, picking frivolous majors, and deserving this crushing debt is an outright lie,” he said.

“I attended public schools from kindergarten through grad school … My payments came from hard-earned money doing very demanding and important work. I hope all teachers and public servants keep that in mind. This is a great program, but mostly, it’s one we deserve.”

Eve Shippens, Buffalo Teachers Federation

Eve Shippens headshot
Eve Shippens
21.5 years teaching. Over $80k in payments. Feels good to be finally forgiven!!!

That was Eve Shippens’ joyful Facebook post when she learned her $86,000 student loan balance was erased thanks to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

“I’m telling everyone I know: Don’t leave money on the table,” Shippens said. “It’s worth the hour of aggravation. Just do it!”

Shippens, a high school science teacher in Buffalo, submitted her application as soon as she heard about the temporary waiver. It was easier than she expected — really just a couple of pages for her because she had already consolidated her loans.

In fact, she inadvertently found out she was finally approved when her bank account suddenly showed a number of $400–$500 deposits to refund her for 17 months of overpayments. She checked her student loan account and couldn’t believe it said zero balance.

If it weren’t for the PSLF waiver, Shippens said, she never would have gotten out from under the crushing debt.

“I went into forebearance a number of times. The math of it is really crazy. I only took out $72,000 in loans — but even after all those years of payments, I still owed $86,000.”

Shippens gets a little emotional when she talks about how this loan forgiveness has changed her life.

“I came from poverty and teaching was my way to become middle class,” she said. “With this debt relief, I finally feel like I’m on much better footing.”