Did you qualify for loan forgiveness under the Department of Education’s temporary waiver? Email senior money reporter Alicia Adamczyk for a chance to be featured in an upcoming story.
Most mornings, Christopher Handley diligently logged into his FedLoans account to check how much remained of his $167,000 student loan balance from college and law school. He had recently made the 120 necessary on-time payments and submitted his forgiveness application, and had been eagerly anticipating his balance reset.
But one day in early November, the 36-year-old assistant district attorney skipped his routine. He was feeling dispirited with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) process and couldn’t bear to see the six-figure account number staring back at him yet again when he was certain he should have already been granted forgiveness.
Handley’s initial application had been rejected without an explanation, though he met all of the requirements: On top of the 10 years of monthly payments, he consolidated his loans into an income-driven repayment plan the month after he graduated from law school, and has worked at the same qualifying job for his entire career.
Frustrated, he resubmitted it and had been waiting for weeks with no official update. A bottle of champagne he and his wife planned to drink to celebrate remained unopened.
When the Texas resident arrived at work at the Harris County District Attorney’s office on that day in November, though, he checked the PSLF subreddit, which had become a support group of sorts for him over the past few years. His heart starting beating faster as he read the latest posts: Multiple users reported that their loans had finally been forgiven. Could it be his lucky day as well?
“Lo and behold, the long nightmare was over,” Handley tells CNBC Make It. He logged into his account and, with “excited disbelief,” saw a $0 balance remaining, saving him over $1,000 each month in loan payments.
That weekend, he and his wife finally popped the champagne.
Aside from Handley, tens of thousands of other public servants have had their debt wiped away in the past few weeks as the Department of Education under President Joe Biden has made a concerted effort to improve the federal loan forgiveness program.
PSLF promises to eliminate the remaining balance of public servants’ federal student loan debt after they make 120 qualifying payments working for a U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government, or not-for-profit organization. It’s a noble goal, but one that has been stymied by bureaucratic mismanagement and miscommunication over the past few years, causing frustration for hundreds of thousands of workers across the country.