Attorney General Phil Weiser fighting for public servants who were promised and denied student loan debt relief
Nov. 22, 2019 (DENVER, Colo.)— Attorney General Phil Weiser today joined 20 other states in filing a brief in a federal case in support of public servants who were promised student loan debt forgiveness in exchange for 10 years of public service, but were denied that relief due to the U.S. Department of Education’s mismanagement of the program.
In the case Weingarten v. U.S. Department of Education, public servant student loan borrowers explain that the Education Department has committed pervasive errors in administering the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As a result, the Department has approved less than one percent of all applicants. In the court brief, Weiser and other attorneys general stress the importance of the PSLF program and ask the Court to review the borrowers’ specific claims to determine whether they should have the opportunity to prove their case.
“Many public servants—including here in Colorado—chose their career path while relying on the promise that, after 10 years of service and payments, their federal student loan debt would be erased,” said Weiser. “Now, after virtually all applicants have been denied, the U.S. Department of Education must be held accountable for abandoning our public servants, leaving them without forgiveness on their student loan debt.”
The PSLF program allows borrowers who pay down their loans while working for 10 years in a qualifying public service job, such as teachers, law enforcement officers, and members of the military, to have the remainder of their federal direct student loans forgiven. This program gives public servants the chance to pass up higher, private-sector salaries and still pay off their student debt.
The average starting salary for a Colorado teacher was $33,483 in 2017-18. About 734,000 Colorado borrowers are paying off student loans and have an average of $24,888 in outstanding student debt. PSLF promises to allow teachers to begin a career in education while still paying off their loans. According to Department of Education reports, more than one million Americans intend to apply for PSLF. Nearly two-thirds of these people had annual salaries of less than $50,000.
At present, the Department has denied relief to over 99 percent of applicants. The first PSLF borrowers became eligible for forgiveness in October 2017. Since then, 90,962 people have applied for loan discharge pursuant to PSLF, but only 845 people have received it.
Federal government reports admit that the Department of Education made widespread errors, including mistakes in record-keeping, providing inaccurate information to borrowers, steering borrowers to take actions that made them ineligible, and failing to explain why they denied applications. In this lawsuit, student borrowers claim that these types of errors led the Department to deny their PSLF applications.
States that joined the brief include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Lawrence Pacheco, Director of Communications
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