April 23, 2021

Warren Statement: Independent Watchdog Reveals Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Is Failing Servicemembers and DoD Civil Servants

"Out of 5,496 DoD borrowers who submitted a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program application, only 287 were approved"

FY2020 NDAA Amendment (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) Committee, made the following statement regarding findings from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which her NDAA amendment mandated, on the effectiveness of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program for individuals in military service and civilian careers at the Department of Defense (DoD):

"The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is supposed to forgive student debt for public servants after ten years, yet these report findings show that this program has been nothing short of a disaster. Our student loan system is utterly broken, and the best way to deliver relief to borrowers and service members crushed by student loan debt is to cancel their debt -- and not after ten years of bureaucratic torture and miscounted payments, but today," said Senator Warren.

The PSLF Program is intended to encourage people to enter public service by forgiving student debt for public servants after ten years. According to the GAO report, which analyzed student loan data from the beginning of the PSLF Program in 2007 through January 2020, the data show "that 287 DoD borrowers received loan forgiveness, while 5,180 DOD borrowers (about 94 percent) were denied."

The FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included Senator Warren's amendment requesting this report to study the effectiveness of the PSLF Program at promoting military and civilian recruitment and retention as well as military readiness. 

Senator Warren is one of the nation's leading voices calling for student debt cancellation to boost our economy and help close the racial wealth gap for borrowers and an end to predatory practices that hurt borrowers and trap people in years and years of debt. 

  • This month, Senators Warren and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) led a group of colleagues in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the Department of Education to take swift action to automatically remove all federally-held student loan borrowers from default.
  • This month at her first hearing as chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Policy, Senator Warren called out giant student loan servicer Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency for its mismanagement of the PSLF Program.
  • She also questioned Jack Remondi, CEO of one of the nation's largest student loan servicers, Navient, on the company's long history of abusive and misleading behavior towards borrowers and how the company has made millions of dollars by profiting off the broken student loan system.
  • Senator Warren has continued her calls for President Biden to use his existing authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt and recently highlighted new data that she obtained from the Education Department revealing the benefits of student debt cancellation.
  • In May 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), along with a group of eight senators, to introduce the Strengthening Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants During the COVID-19 Crisis Act that would expand the PSLF Program to eliminate uncertainty for borrowers, and further incentivize public service by allowing borrowers to receive forgiveness for their loans in qualifying intervals.
  • In April 2019, Senator Warren joined with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and a group of 12 other senators to introduce the What You Can Do for Your Country Act of 2019, new legislation that would overhaul the flawed PSLF Program by expanding eligibility so that every type of federal loan and repayment plan is now included in the program, and ensures that public servants can count on repayment when they apply for loan forgiveness.