Cantwell, Senate Dems Demand Fair and Consistent Treatment of Student Loan Borrowers in Public Service

Senators: “Our nation’s student loan borrowers who uphold their commitments expect the federal government to do the same.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Patty Murray (D-WA) and 35 Senate colleagues to send a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos expressing concern over announcements that borrowers may not be able to rely on notices they have previously received about their eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

“Our nation’s student loan borrowers who uphold their commitments expect the federal government to do the same,” wrote the Senators. “Members of our military, first responders, teachers, social workers, public defenders, and many other honorable public servants across the country are dedicating 10 or more years of their lives to help their communities in return for the basic promise of relief on their student loan debt.”

“It is unacceptable for the Department to have told students they may rely on PSLF to help pay their student loans, only to have that assurance suddenly revoked. Borrowers who have been told in error that their employers qualify for PSLF should at a minimum be grandfathered-in for the period they were previously approved, even if the Department intends to change its determination about qualifying employment going forward.”

Following recent reporting by the New York Times and others about the uncertainty created by the Department’s latest court filings, many student loan borrowers were concerned and confused about their future financial obligations even while they work to serve their country or community in positions of public service. As of December 2016, more than 550,000 borrowers have submitted at least one approved form to certify their employment. However, roughly a third of all submitted employment certification forms have been denied.

The letter requests Secretary DeVos further streamline the application process and make it more transparent to reduce the confusion and inconsistency for PSLF borrowers, such as issuing clear guidance about eligible organizations. The letter also calls for improving the notices sent to PSLF applicants, including clear instructions on how to appeal decisions about a borrower’s eligibility.

In addition to Senators Cantwell, McCaskill, Gillibrand, Nelson, and Murray, the letter was signed Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

A PDF of the letter can be found here.