According to research by the newspaper USA Today, despite the fact that you can get loan forgiveness for public service—including social workers in a child welfare agency, after working for ten years, the vast majority of applicants have not had success in getting their loans forgiven.
More than 41,000 public servants have applied for loan forgiveness but only 206 people have received the loan forgiveness by the U.S. Department of Education.
Under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) people who work ten years in “public service” and pay for their on their federal student loans (120 payments over ten years) can have the remaining loans forgiven. Under the law covered public service jobs include full-time employment (at least 30 hours a week) in:
• Any level of government, including the military, public safety, law enforcement, the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps;
• Public education, including early childhood education;
• Social work in a public child or family services agency;
• Public interest legal services, including prosecution, public defense, or legal aid in a low-income community as part of a nonprofit organization;
• Public or school-based libraries;
• Public service in child care, service for individuals with disabilities, or the elderly;
• Any other work at a tax-exempt public charity established under 501(c)(3) of the tax code;
• Teaching at a tribal college or in a high-needs area as determined by the Department of Education;
There are actions people can take to improve the odds. These actions include have the right kind of loan, have the correct repayment plan, make the total number of payments.
Last fall Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) was promoting one-time funding that can assist social workers seeking education loan forgiveness. The temporary funding acts as a patch for some who qualify for loan forgiveness under a ten-year plan that covers some workers (including social workers working within child welfare) if they have paid on their loans over the past ten years.
As explained by Congressman Davis’s office: a recent funding bill allowed up to $500 million in loan forgiveness for the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The funds are to provide Public Service Loan Forgiveness for public servants who were denied Public Service Loan Forgiveness solely because they were in the wrong federal student loan payment plan. The funds go out on a first-come-first-served basis.
Here is an overview of the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness from the website of the Department of Education (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service/temporary-expanded-public-service-loan-forgiveness#how-qualify).
Davis’s office indicates that public outreach is very important given the limited amount of funds available and given that that public servants must apply and be denied qualifying for this temporary opportunity. Many borrowers may not have formally applied for forgiveness if their servicers told them that they were in the incorrect payment plan and are ineligible.
Congressional offices may be able to help borrowers submit their applications requesting expedited review by Federal Student Aid given the limited availability of these funds.