Department of Education has approved only 1 percent of applicants
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is urging Washington student loan borrowers who have had trouble with public service loan forgiveness to submit a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office. According to the U.S. Department of Education, it has only approved 1 percent of applications for loan forgiveness under the program.
“With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the federal government made a deal with students,” Ferguson said. “For a decade, these borrowers have upheld their part of the bargain by using their talent and skills for the public benefit. However, the refusal rates we’re seeing are frankly alarming. I’m asking any Washingtonians who have had trouble with this program to contact my office.”
Information on filing a complaint is available here.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF, was created in 2007 to relieve the burden of student loan debt for borrowers who choose to pursue a career in public service. PSLF provides that anyone who works in public service, makes on-time payments on their student loan debt for 10 years and meets other program requirements can have the remainder of their federal student loans forgiven.
Potential problems that PSLF-eligible borrowers could face include denial of loan forgiveness, difficulty getting information from a student loan servicer and problems enrolling in the program.
For many student loan borrowers, student debt is a central factor in major decisions. According to a 2015 survey by American Student Assistance, 53 percent of student loan borrowers responded that student loan debt was the deciding factor, or had considerable impact, on their choice of career field.
Student loan work of the Attorney General’s Office
Ferguson has filed two lawsuits against the federal government to defend important student loan protections. A federal judge ruled in one case that the Department of Education improperly delayed borrower defense protections. The other case, regarding the gainful employment rule, is still ongoing.
The Attorney General’s Office introduced the Student Loan Transparency Act in 2017, a bill that requires schools to provide students with basic information on their student loans. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House with a bipartisan vote and unanimously in the Senate. In 2018, Ferguson successfully introduced the Student Loan Bill of Rights, which passed both houses in a bipartisan vote. The agency-request legislation provides vital protections for Washington’s more than 800,000 student loan borrowers.
In January 2017, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against loan servicer Navient. The lawsuit alleges that Navient engaged in a number of unfair and deceptive practices, including misapplying borrower payments.
Ferguson has obtained millions of dollars in debt relief for thousands of student borrowers who attended for-profit colleges that used misleading and deceptive recruitment practices. For example, in January 2019, Ferguson secured more than $7 million in relief for students who fell victim to Career Education Corporation’s deceptive practices.
He has also recovered almost $1.5 million cracking down on debt adjustment companies that charge fees to help borrowers consolidate their federal student loans and enroll in income-driven repayment plans — tasks that borrowers’ loan servicers can and should help them with for free.
The office has also produced the Student Loan Survival Guide to help borrowers and their families in navigating student debt.
More information on the office’s student loan work is available here.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org