New deadline looms as student loan payments restart

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Federal data show more than 61,000 borrowers of all types in California have almost $3 billion in debt eligible to be discharged. Photo Credit: Terovesalainen / Adobe Stock

Federal student loan payments resume this month after a three-year pause, but people in public service have until the end of the year to benefit from recent repayment reforms.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will forgive the remainder of your federal student loan after you have worked for a public agency or certain nonprofits for 10 years and made 120 payments.

Jessica Saint-Paul, a physician assistant, public health educator and member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1521, helps run student loan clinics for her union.

“They can come back and apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” Saint-Paul explained. “And consolidate their loans to get into an income-driven repayment plan all on the same website:”

During the Trump administration, the Department of Education rejected 98% of Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications. The American Federation of Teachers sued, and now the agency has to review every single application filed since 2007.

Reforms under the Biden administration mean people can get credit for the years they have already worked since October 2007, even if their loan was in forbearance and they had stopped making payments. Some of the most favorable terms expire Dec. 31.

Saint-Paul attended an American Federation of Teachers student debt clinic in 2018 and discovered she had the wrong repayment plan and faced the reset of her loan payment count to zero. She joined a class-action lawsuit against loan servicer Navient, which forced major changes to the industry. She noted once the feds finally forgave her loans, it gave her the financial freedom to secure her retirement and focus on getting married and starting a family.

“This allows freedom, for you to be able to live your life,” Saint-Paul contended. “You’re doing the work for the community, I can still do that and not have to worry about a $1,200 a month payment for the next 25 years. This has changed my life tremendously.”

American Federation of Teachers Local 1521 members have achieved more than $4 million of student loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness since March of last year.