The Biden administration expanded its cancellation of student loan debt Thursday to more than 870,000 public service workers in total.

The Biden administration expanded its cancellation of student loan debt Thursday to more than 870,000 public service workers in total. Kameleon007 / Getty Images

Public Service Loan Forgiveness passes $60 billion in erased debt

Since a series of tweaks to make the program easier to access, more than 850,000 Americans have had their loans forgiven in exchange for a decade of public service.

The Biden administration on Thursday announced that a new tranche of borrowers have recently received debt relief in exchange for their work in public service, taking the program over $60 billion in total debt forgiven.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness, established in 2007, offers college graduates the chance to have their student loan debt forgiven if they spend 10 years working for government or a qualifying nonprofit organization and make regular loan payments over that time period.

But applicants reported that prior to the Biden administration, the program was cumbersome at best, and frustrating at worst, thanks to stringent rules governing loan payments and inconsistent information provided by the government, contractors and lenders. And President Trump routinely proposed canceling the program altogether in his annual budget requests.

In 2021, the Biden administration instituted a temporary waiver program to ensure federal workers and other public servants who had tried to abide by the program’s terms could access its benefits. And in 2022, the Education Department issued a series of regulatory changes to streamline the program permanently. Those changes went into effect last July.

Prior to the implementation of these reforms, only 7,000 borrowers had ever received debt forgiveness.

The Education Department announced Thursday that it had processed a new round of approvals for enrollees in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, amounting to $5.8 billion in relief to 77,700 borrowers. The program has now forgiven $62.5 billion in student loan debt incurred by around 871,000 public servants since October 2021.

“For too long, our nation’s teachers, nurses, social workers, firefighters and other public servants faced logistical troubles and trap doors when they tried to access the debt relief they were entitled to under the law,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement. “Today, more than 100 times more borrowers are eligible or PSLF than there were at the beginning of the administration. The Biden administration is turning a promise broken under our predecessor into a promise kept.”

The program has also become a key piece of President Biden’s broader policy goal of forgiving student debt, after the Supreme Court ruled his plan to cancel upwards of $400 billion in student loans was unconstitutional. In the wake of that ruling, Biden has used programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness as a way to fulfill a campaign promise, albeit on a piecemeal basis. Across all of those programs, the administration has forgiven $143.6 billion in student debt owed by nearly 4 million people.

“These public service workers have dedicated their careers to serving their communities, but because of past administrative failures, never got the relief they were entitled to under the law,” Biden said. “Because of the fixes my administration have made, we have now cancelled student debt for over 870,000 public service workers—compared to only about 7,000 public service borrowers ever receiving forgiveness prior to my administration. And through all of our various student debt relief actions, nearly 4 million Americans have had their student debt cancelled under my administration.”