October 18, 2019

Warren, Schumer, Murray, and Kaine Lead Senate Democrats and Demand Sec. DeVos Take Immediate Action to Fix the Education Department’s Gross Mismanagement of Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

GAO Found the Program Rejected 99 Percent of TEPSLF Applicants, Used Only 4 Percent of Appropriated Funds, Involved an Inaccessible, Needlessly Complicated Application Process That is a Significant Barrier to Applicants Seeking Loan Forgiveness

Senate Dems to Secretary DeVos: Dept. Of Education’s Faulty Implementation of TEPSLF Hurts Borrowers and Corrective Action Plan is Required

 Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), led Senate Democrats in a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos demanding that the Department of Education take immediate action to rectify serious flaws in their management of the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (TEPSLF), after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the program rejected 99 percent of TEPSLF applicants, only utilized four percent of funds appropriated by Congress to aid borrowers, and involves a needlessly complicated application process that is a significant barrier to borrowers seeking loan forgiveness.

In the letter, the senators note that although Congress created the TEPSLF program in 2018 to reduce barriers to student loan forgiveness for Americans who pursue careers in public service, and appropriated $700 million to increase the number of Americans eligible for relief, GAO determined that under the direction of President Trump’s Department of Education, the program has a rejection rate of 99 percent, providing relief to only 656 of 54,184 applicants through May 2019. GAO further found that the Department’s application process is needlessly complex, despite Congress’s requirement that the Department create a “simple method” for application. For example, the Department requires that TEPLSF applicants must first apply to, and be rejected from, the regular Public Service Loan Forgiveness program even if an applicant knows they do not meet that program’s requirements. This has resulted in 71% of denials.

“The Trump Administration’s flawed implementation of loan forgiveness programs, resistance to recommendations to improve its processes, failure to properly hold student loan servicers and debt collectors accountable, and recent interference with state and federal law enforcement agencies, has combined to create a disaster for public servants applying for loan forgiveness,” the Senate Democrats wrote. “The millions of public servants who pursued careers in education, public health, the military, and other public service work deserve better.”

Senate Democrats stress that these abysmal outcomes are contrary to Congress’s intent, and request additional information regarding the Department’s administration of the program, including a specific, and detailed timeline and written description of how the Department of Education intends to comply with GAO’s recommendations to improve the program’s administration; remedial measures the Department will take if deadlines to improve TEPLSF administration are not met; a corrective action plan for all concerns raised about TEPLSF administration to-date, as requested by Members of Congress on June 21, 2018; and a description of any other actions the Department will take to improve TEPLSF program administration and improve approval rates for borrowers that apply for relief. Senate Democrats demand a response to these requests no later than October 30, 2019.

The letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Senator Warren continues to make oversight of the Education Department a top priority as part of an initiative known as “DeVos Watch.” You can find more information on her website here.