This afternoon, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona held a virtual roundtable to discuss the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program with educators who have student loans and are participating in the program.
The participants included teachers from elementary and secondary schools and an occupational therapist. They shared their personal experiences with the Secretary and provided feedback on ways the Department can make it easier for borrowers to understand the PSLF program, complete their payments, communicate clearly with their loan servicers, and eventually receive loan forgiveness based on their service.
Secretary Cardona launched the discussion and listened as the educators shared their stories:
“Student loan forgiveness is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. And we’re going to be focusing on that. We have tools in our toolbox at the Department of Education that I don’t think are working, and we need to fix them. We need to work hard to make sure that the intention of those tools—in this case, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program—is working in the way it’s supposed to.”
One by one the teachers shared the challenges they face in repaying their student loans and meeting the current requirements of the PSLF program.
“Public Service Loan Forgiveness was passed by Congress with bipartisan support to attract talented professionals to vitally important jobs that are typically lower paying than the private sector. And while I did not go into this career to have my loans forgiven, I definitely welcome the help,” said Christine Conlon, a school based occupational therapist from Staten Island, New York, who works with students receiving special education. “Reform to Public Service Loan Forgiveness is definitely necessary to make pursuing degrees in higher education and careers in public service more equitable and affordable. Not having the accurate information on my repayment prevented me from making decisions that were in my best financial interest. The three-year uncertainty was grueling and impacted my approach to major life decisions, like buying a house and starting a family.”
James Stewart, a high school science teacher from Maryland said, “The past calamity associated with the loan process and the teacher loan forgiveness program cannot be undone, as each of us here today and many others have suffered. But we hope that something can be done to bring our suffering to an end. My journey was never going to happen without a price, so I’m not looking for a free ride. But the government did promise to cancel the debt for all who served 10 years or more as educators.”
Cardona closed the roundtable reaffirming his commitment to improve the PSLF program:
“There’s a lot of work for us to do to make this process not only more manageable, but we also have a long way to go in terms of our customer service to make sure that we’re serving our borrowers and not putting them through different obstacles in order to get the support that they were promised in 2007. I commit to you that this is a priority for me.”
Participants in the Roundtable included:
- James Stewart, high school science teacher from Maryland; member of the National Education Association.
- Sean Ichiro Manes, elementary music teacher from New Jersey; member of the National Education Association.
- Christine Conlon, occupational therapist from Staten Island, New York; member of the American Federation of Teachers.
- Gloria Nolan, teacher from St. Louis, Missouri; member of the American Federation of Teachers.