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SACRAMENTO, Aug. 28, 2019 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today co-led a multistate coalition with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos once again urging that the U.S. Department of Education provide data to help states address the ongoing problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The PSLF program was created in 2007 to help student loan borrowers who aspire to give back to their country by working in a public service field. On October 5, 2018, Attorney General Becerra and a multistate coalition issued a letter to the Department of Education expressing concerns about the Department’s implementation of PSLF and requesting data from the Department. The attorneys general also requested that the Department provide information about its plans to reform the program. It took Secretary DeVos nine months to respond. In July 2019, the Department furnished incomplete information that was not meaningfully responsive to the states’ request. In today’s letter, the coalition raises alarms about the ongoing mishandling of the PSLF program, noting that graduates may be forced into abandoning public service careers in order to cover college debt that the Department of Education promised to forgive.
“College graduates who committed to careers as hard-working public servants – including teachers, librarians and first responders – relied on a promise by the federal government that their direct student loans would be forgiven if they made ten years of full, on-time payments on those loans,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Ten years in, we find that Secretary DeVos is denying close to 99 percent of those Americans their promised relief and is withholding information to explain why the program is failing under her watch. As a country, we must make good on our promise to Americans who succeed in college and fulfill their commitment as public servants. Hundreds of thousands of Americans relied on this promise to make life plans and career decisions. They will be left in financial turmoil if the Trump Administration reneges on the promised loan forgiveness. These dedicated Americans held up their end of the bargain, Secretary DeVos and the Federal Student Aid Program need to do the same.”
In the letter, Attorney General Becerra reiterated that data from the Department of Education would help states address the ongoing problems with PSLF. But the publicly available data that Secretary DeVos has provided to states thus far goes only a short way toward a full accounting of the current situation for borrowers relying on PSLF. The data indicate that only 864 of 76,002 Americans who applied for PSLF have been approved and only 442 of 12,429 applicants to the Temporary Expanded PSLF program have been approved. The data reveal that tens of thousands of college graduates have been denied the promised relief. For this reason, Attorney General Becerra has requested more complete data from the U.S. Department of Education to examine the scope and source of the problems in the administration of the PSLF program.
Attorney General Becerra has relentlessly fought for the rights of student borrowers. In June 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed suit against Navient and its subsidiaries, Pioneer and General Revenue Corporation, for misconduct in the servicing and collection on federal student loans. Additionally, Attorney General Becerra recently announced a settlement against Aequitas Capital Management that secured more than $51 million in debt relief for Californians who attended Corinthian Colleges. He also negotiated a settlement against Balboa Student Loan Trust that secured another $67 million in debt relief. In 2017, Attorney General Becerra sued Ashford University, another for-profit school, and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education, since renamed Zovio, for unlawful activity against its students. That lawsuit is pending in San Diego Superior Court. He has also denounced the Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office dedicated to protecting students. In May 2019, Attorney General Becerra sent a letter urging the Department of Education to discharge the student loans of tens of thousands of disabled military veterans by developing an automatic discharge program.
The coalition sending the letter includes the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the letter is available here.