The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has also been a focus of concern for members of the Peace Corps community, because returned Volunteers were left out of reforms that were supposed to help them. Now here’s some good news.
By Katie McSheffrey
Photo by JessicaRain / Wikimedia Commons
Last October, the U.S. Department of Education announced an overhaul of the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). But that initial overhaul, did not include proposals to help Peace Corps Volunteers. National Peace Corps Association has covered this in podcasts and WorldView magazine. Months later, those of us who have been leading the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Facebook group have some good news.
First, a bit more background. In October 2021, the Secretary of Education announced a limited time waiver, through which borrowers may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would not otherwise qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The limited time waiver expires October 31, 2022. Unfortunately this waiver did not help the majority of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, whose loans were in economic hardship deferment status during their Peace Corps service. But advocacy efforts to fix the problem have now paid off.
The Department of Education has announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The deadline to apply is October 31, 2022.
On April 19, 2022, the Department of Education announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Included in the one-time addendum is a clarifying point that will greatly benefit many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: “Months spent in deferment before 2013 will count under the waiver. Additionally, ED will include Economic Hardship Deferment on or after January 1, 2013. These periods of deferment will also be applied to your account in fall 2022.”
Unfortunately, periods of in-school deferment still do not count. That may affect Volunteers who participated in the Master’s International Program.
One important deadline to note: This limited time waiver will end on October 31, 2022. To take advantage of the waiver, borrowers must take steps as outlined on the Department of Education website to sign up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness prior to that date.
While this is positive news for returned Volunteers to be included in the time-limited waiver, NPCA and the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Group are still working to advocate for permanent, retroactive change to the PSLF program to ensure all returned Volunteers qualify for this program, regardless of status while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Be sure to keep up-to-date on the latest changes to the PSLF program, as the Department of Education continues to update guidance for borrowers.
For those with student loans, here’s something else important to keep in mind: The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on direct loans after a borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Borrowers do not need to have their full 120 payments by the waiver deadline, but they do need to be signed up for the program so the Department of Education can verify Peace Corps service records.
Questions? Please feel free to contact the RPCVs for PSLF Relief group on Facebook.
MORE TO THE STORY:
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED: On June 1, 2022, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act, to streamline and improve the troubled federal program to help Americans pursuing careers in public service — including firefighters, teachers, Peace Corps Volunteers, police officers, and those working for nonprofits — have their student loan debt forgiven.
TAKE ACTION: Share your student loan story with lawmakers by writing to President Biden and your members of Congress through NPCA's Action Center.
Katie McSheffrey served as a Volunteer in Azerbaijan 2009–11. She is currently the chief of staff in the Office of Human Capital for the Department of the Interior. She previously served as government affairs officer and public service engagement lead with the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and with Peace Corps Headquarters.