Education Department looks to expand Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility

Personal finance

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The U.S. Department of Education may extend eligibility of a popular student loan forgiveness program to early childhood educators.

The Department on Thursday announced that it was issuing a request for information on potentially broadening the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to include workers in early childhood education settings, many of whom report low wages.

“Early childhood educators help young children learn, grow, and thrive,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal in a statement.

“But they are often poorly compensated, and student debt is a problem,” Kvaal added. “If these educators can access Public Service Loan Forgiveness, we can help our youngest children, their families, and their communities.”

The PSLF program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, allows certain not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans canceled after 10 years of on-time payments. Including early childhood educators would likely expand the reach of the program to at least some for-profit employers (many in the field operate a small business).

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The change could make more than 450,000 additional workers eligible for the debt relief if they have student loans, The Education Department says.

The benefit would likely be retroactive in effect, said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

That means some workers may be able to get their debt cleared before 10 years, depending on how long they’ve been in the line of work.

The Education Department is inviting researchers, academics, policy experts, administrators and other individuals familiar with early childhood educators to provide comments on how it may determine people’s eligibility and implement the change. The comment period will close on July 22.

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