Jonathan Pearson posted an articleAt Last, Here’s Some Good News for the Peace Corps Community When It Comes to Public Service Loan ForgivenessAn update from the RPCVs for PSLF Relief see more
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.
Orrin Luc posted an articleMembers of Congress followed that with a letter signed by 17 lawmakers. see more
Rep. John Garamendi joined Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking for returned Volunteers to be included in Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reforms.
By Jonathan Pearson
In early March 2022, CNN reported that the U.S. Department of Education has identified 100,000 borrowers eligible for debt cancellation from the beleaguered Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Reforms were announced to the program last October, allowing some borrowers to receive credit toward PSLF for periods of public service that would not have previously qualified. But Returned Peace Corps Volunteers were not listed among those eligible. They still aren’t.
We covered some of the problems that returned Volunteers are facing in the previous edition of WorldView. So what has happened since?
Illustration by Mark Smith
In December 2021, RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1964–66) and Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen sent a letter, signed by 17 lawmakers, urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to include RPCVs in the reforms. “We strongly support your Department’s efforts to reform, strengthen, and expand the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program,” they wrote. “We simply request that you provide for current and returned Peace Corps volunteers by creating a new waiver or expanding current waivers to allow volunteers to credit their full service overseas towards PSLF or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, even if their federal student loans were placed into deferment or forbearance status during their service.”
In January, the Connecticut Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, an affiliate group of NPCA, sent a letter to Secretary Cardona, who previously served as Connecticut’s education secretary. “It was unfortunate to learn that the October announcement did not include RPCVs as being eligible for the temporary waiver period,” they wrote. “We therefore request that you extend a similar waiver to allow RPCVs who served since 2007 to count their public service overseas towards PSLF credit and repayment, even if the volunteer’s loan was in deferment or forbearance status at the time of their service.”
A version of this story appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated April 30, 2022.
Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. The NPCA Advocacy team will share updates as we have them. If you have a PSLF story to share, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Communications Intern posted an articleSo returned Volunteers are rallying to try to fix that. And NPCA is working with them to help. see more
So returned Volunteers are rallying to try to fix that. And NPCA is working with them to help.
By Jonathan Pearson
In October 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced an overhaul of the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Applicants who devote ten years of work in the public service sector (and make 120 qualifying student loan payments during that time) are eligible to have further loan payments forgiven. In a press release, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the changes were an attempt to live up to the promise of the program and could impact more than 550,000 borrowers.
But, as a New York Times story published in November made clear, Peace Corps Volunteers fell through the cracks. We need to fix that. A number of returned Volunteers have mobilized to seek widespread relief that would enable them to automatically receive qualifying months toward PSLF for any months in which their federal student loans were in a deferment or forbearance status due to Peace Corps service. They have formed a Facebook group, RPCVs for PSLF Relief, which has become a focal point for organizing action.
National Peace Corps Association has worked with some RPCVs to organize meetings with Congress and has launched an advocacy initiative to make sure folks on Capitol Hill and in the White House understand the scale of the problem. And NPCA’s Global Reentry Program hosted a conversation on the “Jobs with Jodi” podcast with returned Volunteers Katie McSheffrey (Azerbaijan 2009–11) and Sarah Kilchevskyi (Ukraine 2006–08) to straighten out some misperceptions about PSLF. As it turns out, part of the problem has been that Volunteers and returned Volunteers alike got bad advice, including from the Peace Corps agency.
SHARE YOUR STORY: Go to NPCA’s Action Center to write President Biden and your members of Congress.
LEARN MORE: NPCA hosted a conversation about the program as part of the “Jobs with Jodi” series on November 17.
Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.