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Satanica

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[....]
Congress created the expansion program last year in response to a growing outcry. Thousands of borrowers — nurses, teachers and other public servants — complained that the requirements for the original program were so rigid and poorly communicated that lawmakers needed to step in. But, documents show, even this expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program isn't working.

Ninety-nine percent of loan-forgiveness requests under that new Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) were rejected during the program's first year, from May 2018 to May 2019. According to the review out Thursday, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Education processed roughly 54,000 requests and approved just 661. It spent only $27 million of the $700 million Congress set aside for the expansion.

"We were disheartened," says Melissa Emrey-Arras, who led the GAO's review. "I think we were discouraged. I mean, the hope is that you have this temporary expanded process, and you want it to help a lot of people. And you don't want borrowers to be confused about the eligibility criteria and to face a high denial rate. And yet, that's what we found."

In a statement to NPR, Education Department press secretary Angela Morabito says, "The Department has taken steps to help borrowers better understand the complex eligibility requirements, application process, benefits, and other information related to the PSLF and TEPSLF programs. The Department agrees with the GAO's recommendations about how to improve the programs; a number of our efforts are already underway."

"What sort of Kafkaesque thing are we in here?" asks Matthew Austin, exasperated by his recent experience with the PSLF expansion. "It's like we're just stumbling in the darkness."

Every Monday night, Matthew sits down at his desk in the Connecticut home he shares with his wife, Heather, to pay the family's bills. He clearly remembers opening a letter in the summer of 2018 from the company that manages Heather's federal student loans.

She had spent more than a decade in public service as a teacher. The couple was looking forward to the day when, under the original PSLF program, the Education Department would forgive her student loans. But the letter did not say "congratulations."

"My jaw just kind of dropped," Matthew says. (Heather did not want to talk about what has been a long, painful odyssey for them both.) The letter instead informed the Austins that, much to their surprise, none of the loan payments they had made over the previous decade had counted toward the 120 monthly payments required to receive loan forgiveness. Not one.
[....]
Many borrowers have had similar experiences with PSLF, believing for years that they were working toward loan forgiveness only to realize later that they had been in the wrong repayment plan or held the wrong type of loan. The Austins have spent more than a decade planning for the day when Heather would be free from those loans. The promise of PSLF has been in their family longer than their three children.
[....]
Then came good news: A few months before Matthew Austin opened that letter, Congress created the emergency expansion of the PSLF program in response to an outcry from borrowers like the Austins. Lawmakers set aside $700 million to help people who, like Heather, had fulfilled their public service but were, unbeknownst to them, in the wrong repayment plan. Naturally, the Austins applied. But the nightmare continued.

Matthew says their request for TEPSLF was denied, this time on a technicality — "because we had not been denied for PSLF." According to the GAO report, this is a common complaint. In its rush to implement this expansion of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the Education Department decided to require borrowers who believe they qualify for TEPSLF to first apply for, and be denied, PSLF.

It's a hurdle Congress did not ask for. In fact, knowing that borrowers were already feeling frustrated and disillusioned with PSLF, lawmakers directed the Department of Education to do the opposite, to make this expansion easy to access: "The Secretary shall develop and make available a simple method for borrowers to apply for loan cancellation."

According to the GAO's yearlong review of the program, 71% of all TEPSLF denials were rejected because of this one hurdle — asking borrowers to first apply for a program they know they do not qualify for. That's 38,068 requests denied. It is unclear how many of those borrowers, once they are denied PSLF, would technically qualify for TEPSLF.

"This can be confusing to borrowers," the GAO's Emrey-Arras tells NPR. "It doesn't make a lot of sense, from a borrower perspective, as to why you would need to apply for a program that you know you're ineligible for. Yet that's the way the process works."

The Education Department "has not created a borrower-friendly TEPSLF process," the GAO says. "This does not align with Education's strategic plan objective to improve the quality of service to customers across the student aid life cycle."

The Austins found the process so confusing that after being rejected for TEPSLF, instead of further pleading their case with their loan servicer or the Education Department, they contacted one of their U.S. senators.
[....]
"[The Education Department has] not competently administered this program," says U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House education committee. He vows to hold public hearings about the department's handling of PSLF and now TEPSLF.

"The students are entitled to it," Scott adds. "They have fulfilled their responsibility over a decade of public service, and they're entitled by law to have those loans discharged. ... It is the constitutional responsibility of the executive branch to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and we will focus public attention on the fact that they are not doing it."

Congress created Public Service Loan Forgiveness in 2007, hoping to encourage promising college graduates into public service careers. In return for 10 years of government or not-for-profit work and 120 qualified student loan payments, borrowers were told the U.S. Department of Education would forgive whatever remained of their federal student loans. But the program's requirements are so rigid, and were so poorly communicated in those early days, that the overwhelming majority of borrowers have, so far, been rejected.

The Austins, for example, appear to have run afoul of PSLF when their first son was born and Heather took a year off from work. They requested and received a one-year deferment. But when the couple resumed making payments, they did not realize — and they say they were never told — that their new repayment plan disqualified them from loan forgiveness.

"This wasn't a puzzle or a lottery," says Rep. Scott. "This is a program where, if you fulfill your responsibilities ... then your student loan would be forgiven. It's just incredible that we had to, last year, pass legislation ... to create an emergency program."

Now, Scott says, it is inexcusable that this emergency program is rejecting borrowers' requests for loan forgiveness at the same rate — 99% — as the troubled program it was meant to alleviate.

In its new review, GAO investigators also criticize the Education Department for not clearly explaining to borrowers how the program works or how they can contest a denial.

For example, the GAO report says, when borrowers are rejected for TEPSLF, the letter they receive does not clearly explain the options for requesting a second review of their claim. Investigators also point out that, given the high potential for error by the company that manages TEPSLF, it "is especially important" that borrowers understand how to dispute an erroneous rejection.

While the vast majority of borrowers' TEPSLF requests (71%) were denied because they had not yet applied for PSLF, 10% of requests were rejected because borrowers had not been repaying their loans for a full 10 years. Another 6% got hung up on a technicality created by Congress: When borrowers apply for help, their most recent payment, as well as the payment they made 12 months before applying, must be equal to or greater than what they would have paid on an income-driven repayment plan.

"That was ridiculous," says Lana Scott, whose TEPSLF application was among the 6% that were rejected because her recent payments were not considered adequate. After being denied PSLF, Scott says she called her loan servicer and asked exactly what she would need to do to qualify for TEPSLF. "None of it was actually told to me over the phone."

In this new review, GAO investigators push the Education Department to make it easier for borrowers to find information about the program's strict requirements. For example, the department has an online help tool for people hoping to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but the tool provides no guidance for applying for TEPSLF.

The GAO also recommends that the Education Department streamline the TEPSLF application process and be much more transparent with borrowers about the program's process and requirements.
 

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Totemic

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It's all Trumps Fault!! :rolleyes:

This is what happens when things become so convoluted that no one can understand it. This is also why I believe there should not be career politicians, because they can fill these things full of jargon that no one including lawyers can follow.
 

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Sejanus

Veteran Member
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You enter into a debt in good faith promising to repay it.
I repaid my student loans because I agreed to.
Too many want to skate.
I am not nor have ever been well off, yet I have my dignity, honour and remain a man of my word.
Those things matter.

Let the hate commence.
 

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Satanica

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A lot of these student loans were sold to folks on false promises of lucrative careers. When the lucrative careers proved otherwise, they have had trouble repaying the loans. The entire thing is a scam of monumental proportions and it needs a true and equitable overhaul plus straighten out this shit regarding the repayment help.

I've mentioned before that my student loan back between 1967 and 1970 was a whopping $1500 (give or take a hundred). I was majoring in business adminsitration or some such.
 
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RisottoGroupon

Former baby Future ghost
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A lot of these student loans were sold to folks on false promises of lucrative careers. When the lucrative careers proved otherwise, they have had trouble repaying the loans. The entire thing is a scam of monumental proportions and it needs a true and equitable overhaul plus straighten out this shit regarding the repayment help.

I've mentioned before that my student loan back between 1967 and 1970 was a whopping $1500 (give or take a hundred). I was majoring in business adminsitration or some such.
I went to the cheapest university I could, had several scholarships, and took out only what I had to, to get by. After I graduated I couldn't get a job anywhere without 2+ years of experience even at entry level. I took a job way beneath my education level making min. Wage hoping I could climb the ladder. Yeah well my husband made twice my salary and has only an AA so when it came time for one of us to stay home I was the clear choice.

I will forever appreciate my college experiences and the knowledge I gained. But if I could do it over, I would never go. Young kids are practically brainwashed that if you don't go to college, you won't get a good job yadda yadda, and that trade schools aren't legit/lucrative. The tides are finally changing on that, but my generation was pushed hard towards university. I mean, I can't be the only one here who was told college was the end all be all.
 

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Siobhan

Baekjul Bool Gool
Staff member
Many college grads have turning to trade schools for the past 2 decades to learn welding, pipe fitting, automotive/motorcycle technician etc., in order to be able to get lucrative blue collar paying jobs that their 2-6 years of university education failed in finding them anything above basic entry level pay - and far too many who've tried to get just *any* job, even fast food places, are told, "You're over-qualified for the job(s) we're currently offering", so they're passed over for even the "least work experience needed" jobs in our economy. :(
 

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Totemic

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Unfortunately US citizens have been brainwashed into "college is the only way to make it in the world". So we have loads of people that absolutely suck at school forced to go to college because that's the only way.

Trade schools have gotten a bum deal as far back as I can remember. My field doesn't require a college education, it requires some schooling and training, but definitely not anything above basic high school. So you have scores of kids and adults that are stuck with extremely high loan amounts, and 8 billion other people to fight for those 5 great paying positions.

Our education system needs a refresh, from ground floor all the way up. No one place has the best, but seriously, if we combined some of the aspects from EU countries to the American education system, we may actually have something worth a shit
 

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BuffettGirl

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Many college grads have turning to trade schools for the past 2 decades to learn welding, pipe fitting, automotive/motorcycle technician etc., in order to be able to get lucrative blue collar paying jobs that their 2-6 years of university education failed in finding them anything above basic entry level pay - and far too many who've tried to get just *any* job, even fast food places, are told, "You're over-qualified for the job(s) we're currently offering", so they're passed over for even the "least work experience needed" jobs in our economy. :(
My ex did that. Went from a VP level job at major furniture company to becoming a certified master electrician in the past 5-8 years or so and now runs electrical cable at a Google or Facebook (or some other Mega corporation) site. He loves it, makes WAY more money and feels less like a nameless, faceless cog in the giant wheel of life and more like the guy everyone knows and depends on.
 

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Brillig

Danse Macabre Instructor
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This program isn't to forgive everyone's, it is only for PUBLIC SERVANTS who have put in at least TEN YEARS in their career. I don't have a problem with loan forgiveness for those folks.


Many people go to college and incur huge debt without researching and thinking it through, then have too much debt and not enough income. My 31 year old friend has huge student loan debt for a degree she does not and will never use. She worked a year in her field and hated it. Then she was a receptionist for 5 years (no college needed), now she is going back to community college to train for a career she might actually like. Better research and a realistic approach to what jobs might be available after graduation could have saved her 4 years and a huge debt to repay. Millions of others are in the same boat. I know lots of people who don't use their degrees because they made poor choices.
 

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EyEgOrE

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I worked my way through college. When I graduated, I had one loan that thankfully I was able to pay off with one check (thank you, savings account!). And I still work at the same job I was at while I was in school (and no - it is not at all related to my degree). Turns out, I could have gone to a field school or two for a few months (and quite a bit fewer dollars) and gotten a job, because experience is all that mattered to everyone that was hiring. Live and learn. If I could go back and do it again I definitely would have gone to a trade school.
 

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Totemic

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Someone still has to know how to do all the stuff they teach you at tech schools. If everybody is trained as an office worker who is going to work on your electric, toilets, cars, I mean we still need these people!
Exactly, we need these trades and these people, but the problem is guidance counselors and various college recruitment all tell kids that those are dead end jobs. So they fall under the indoctrination that the only good path is putting your ass deep in debt to get an education and now spend the next 20 yrs fighting to get that good paying job.
When you could have gone to a trade school, gotten an elevated education, hands on training and you are out in the field ready to work, and make decent living wage. I don't fault people for going to college, I fault the system that forces you to start your life in debt because that is the only way to go.
 

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cubby

Live Long and Prosper
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My older son works for an utility company, something like Georgia Power but a subcontractor, while GP does all the high wire stuff, my son's crew does ground work. They work mainly, it seems at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, something is always going to shit there. He made $30+ an hour and then there's overtime nearly every week. He recently got promoted to a salaried position that still pays overtime (YAY). Do you think he'd be making that kind of money in the first career he thought he wanted, Wal-Mart management.

Anyway the local Tech school is starting to recruit more students and the high schools have restarted the program where seniors get credit for learning something there. So the light is beginning to dawn, I hope it continues. (My friend works as an Admin there in student services, so I get to hear it all)
 

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Satanica

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If schools still taught proper math, graduates would be able to figure out that they'll never ever recoup all that tuition money no matter how successful they become. If you don't have time to start making a return on that investment then it's pointless. This is where the counseling really breaks down.
 

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QuickSugar

Evil Shenanigans
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If you make the decision to go to college you can pay for it. Period. I don't see how a Government employee should receive forgiveness when the work of others is no more or no less important. I don't hold publicly paid employees on a pedestal.
I worked while I went to school. I have my degree and my cosmetology license. It took me a long time to pay my loans but as of this year, actually, I'm paid in full.
I'm for more concerned about the cost of college. These institutions need to start justifying their costs a bit better. Loans wouldn't be so expensive if the cost of education were priced closer to it's actual value. Also maybe take a closer look at the Department of Education. Both are driving the cost of student loans.
 

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