For almost 15 years, Trygve “Spike” Magelssen claims to have faithfully repaid his student loans every month, slowly canceling the original $ 53,000 debt, even when medical bills, home improvement loans and other costs were “financially” borne by him. . wall.”
Then in late 2018, Magelssen, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Northern Montana State University, wondered if he could benefit from a temporary extension of the so-called Public Service Loan Exemption Program Congress. Civil servants, including teachers, health workers, and law enforcement, can apply based on certain requirements and have to make 10 years of payments before the remaining balance of the loan can be written off.
But after turning to the federal student loan office for help, Magelssen learned that his previous payments could not be counted retroactively. Moreover, even if he registered, he realized that he could pay the remainder of his debt in less time than was necessary to reach the ten-year threshold.
“It was a dead end,” said 62-year-old Magelssen, whose current student loan debt is about $ 21,500, mostly made up of interest.
For student loan lenders like Magelssen, who have missed an application or possibly obtained a qualification if they had known about the program sooner, they hope that the next administration under President-elect Joe Biden will provide them with a financial lifeline while protecting their interests. , especially during a pandemic in which millions of Americans were left unemployed or underpaid.
These borrowers can get their wishes.
Biden said he is dealing with civil servant loan forgiveness by providing $ 10,000 in student debt relief for each year of service, up to five years. This includes the work of the school, government, or nonprofit. The student loan would be enrolled automatically, as planned, and the former “national or community service” would also allow for a borrower’s rating.
The Washington-based Brookings Institution estimates the nation’s 45 million student borrowers estimate $ 1.7 trillion in student loan debt – less than total mortgage debt but higher on credit cards.
“This needs to be done immediately,” Biden told reporters last week about his student loan waiver plan.
But as part of its broader higher education agenda, it did not commit other Democrats to demanding a broader student loan waiver program or even full debt cancellation.
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At Tuesday’s press conference, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. called on Biden to issue an enforcement order after taking office to begin his proposal to reduce student debt.
“Higher education needs to have a ladder,” Schumer said. “Student debt is an anchor around the ankles of these kids.”
Schumer, with Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. And, along with other Democrats, he worked out a plan for Biden to take immediate action after he became president, including using the executive to ensure there would be no tax liability for federal student borrowers.
Some economists and policymakers have questioned the benefits to the economy of forgiving student debt and how the Biden administration would pay for its costs, which are expected to be billions.
It is also uncertain who Biden will appoint to replace Betsy DeVos as head of the education department. Meanwhile, advocates for student borrowers say that if Republicans maintain control over the Senate, a split congress may derail efforts for major student loan reforms or make it harder for Biden to reverse some of the policies pursued under the Trump administration.
This week’s report by Student Loan Experts and Lawyers entitled “Implementing Debt Reduction” states that approaches – administrative measures or legislation – are not mutually exclusive and depend on circumstances and specific debt reduction programs implemented by the Biden administration. try to reform.
According to student advocacy groups, the public service loan forgiveness program needs comprehensive changes. According to a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office, DeVos ’education department rejected a staggering 99 percent of applications under the expanded loan waiver program.
“These programs have been discontinued,” said Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, the consumer advocacy group that drafted the report. “They are shattered by incompetences in the Ed Department, or by illegal practices widespread by for-profit colleges and schools of prey. The incoming Biden administration has a fundamental mission to improve the lives of millions of people.”
Biden says he also supports the release of student debts cheated by for-profit colleges.
DeVost was criticized for employing several industry insiders and freezing Obama-era regulations that would have increased student protection. But the Ministry of Education defended its action, saying the recruits were “highly qualified” and withdrew if necessary.
Theresa Sweet, a Bay Area student borrower who was the plaintiff in the 2019 lawsuit against DeVos, said Wednesday that she had lost faith in an education class that she said is supposed to protect the interests of students.
His lawyers in Harvard Law School’s Predatory Student Lending project allege that DeVos illegally stopped a program called the Borrower Protection for Repayment, a 1990s regulation that was expanded under the Obama administration and says borrowers are being cheated. their schools are eligible for federal loan forgiveness.
But after the April settlement agreement, in which DeVos did not acknowledge the violation but promised an immediate adjudication of the program, the Department of Education began issuing comprehensive denials to student borrowers, setting up an ongoing legal dispute that could eventually end under the next administration. .
The Department of Education did not respond immediately to the request for comment on Wednesday after a judge ruled that the student loan would not have to be applied for an applicable loan payment until the case was resolved.
Sweet, a nursing assistant, said the Biden administration should ensure compliance with the law, as it was written.
“If anyone comes to the next DOE secretary, doesn’t come out to protect the borrower, I feel like we still have to fight,” he added. “And I will fight until this situation gets some truth.”