In recent days, thousands of federal student loan borrowers have gotten a shock. When they go online to check their loan balances, they realize, suddenly, they are debt-free. This wave of loan discharges is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. NPR’s Cory Turner reports.
CORY TURNER, BYLINE: When Congress created PSLF left back in 2007, it was to encourage people like Nathan Harig to work in public service.
NATHAN HARIG: Auto accidents, sudden cardiac arrests, especially – that’s one of my specialties.
TURNER: Harig has been a paramedic in Pennsylvania for more than 10 years and had been paying nearly $500 a month toward his student loans. And that was the deal. After 10 years of service, the U.S. government promised to forgive the rest. But in reality, the program’s been a mess, with poor communication and paperwork mistakes leading to borrowers not getting credit for all of the time they actually served. Ginnie Dressler, a librarian in Ohio, compares it to being a lifelong fan of the hapless Cleveland Browns football team.
GINNIE DRESSLER: Every season, this is going to be the winner. That’s how I felt every year putting in my certification and knowing that there’s probably going to be some disappointment at the end (laughter).
TURNER: Dressler’s laughing because the Ed Department is now making it easier to qualify for forgiveness. Last week, when she went online to check her loan balance…
DRESSLER: Complete disbelief. Complete disbelief.
TURNER: Overnight, Dressler’s student loan debt went from more than $40,000 to…
DRESSLER: Zero interest, zero due – and I was like, wow. I think I took at least two screenshots just in case something happened to the one. It was like, I have this.