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October 01, 2015

ABA social media campaign to preserve PSLF continues; GAO reports gap in program information

The ABA’s social media lobbying campaign to preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program continues to spread the word about the importance of the program, which provides loan forgiveness to those who work in government and the non-profit sector.

The ABA campaign is in response to recent proposals to cap or eliminate PSLF, which was established in 2007 to provide forgiveness of remaining federal student loan debt after 10 years of eligible full-time employment in public service and 120 qualifying monthly payments. Changes in the program, which might also be proposed as part of the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization, would directly impact the legal community, where the greatest obstacle in recruiting and retaining lawyers for public-sector positions has been the substantial student debt that borrowers incur to pursue a law decree.

The ABA campaign, launched in late summer, is likely to widen to include other legal and non-legal organizations. In addition to urging individuals to communicate their support for the program through various forms of social media, plans are being made to create additional opportunities for individuals to share their loan forgiveness stories with their legislators.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review student loan forgiveness programs, including PSLF, in light of increasing defaults on loans.

The GAO study, released Sept. 17, found borrowers are not receiving sufficient information about their eligibility for repayment and forgiveness options. Few borrowers employed in public service have had their employment and loans certified for the PSLF program, and it is unclear whether borrowers who may be eligible are aware of the program. The report found that, although the Department of Education has taken some steps intended to increase borrower awareness of PSLF, it has not examined how well its efforts are working. The study recommended that the department increase its outreach to do more to make borrowers aware of repayment options, including borrowers who may be working in the private sector but may move to the public sector in the future.

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