News Release, Office of the Maryland Attorney General
BALTIMORE, MD (November 22, 2019) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of public service workers who were promised federal student loan debt forgiveness in exchange for 10 years of public service. The amicus supports the plaintiffs in Weingarten et al v. U.S. Dept. of Educ. et al, who, after serving 10 years in public service, were denied debt relief due to the U.S. Department of Education’s mismanagement of the program.
According to these public service borrowers and federal government reports, the U.S. Department of Education has committed pervasive errors in administering the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As a result, less than one percent of all applicants receive relief. In the brief, the attorneys general stressed the importance of the PSLF programs and asked the Court to review and consider borrowers’ specific allegations, including whether they should have the opportunity to prove their case.
“These student loan borrowers were not denied loan forgiveness through any fault of their own, but because of the terrible management of the program by Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education,” said Attorney General Frosh. “These workers performed the required 10 years of public service in good faith. Their right to obtain the relief they were promised should be restored.”
The PSLF program allows borrowers who pay down their loans while working for 10 years in qualifying public service jobs, such as teachers, law enforcement officers, and members of the military, to have the remainder of their federal direct student loans forgiven. This program gives public service workers the chance to pass up higher, private sector salaries and still pay off their student debt. According to the Department of Education reports, more than one-million Americans intend to apply for PSLF. Nearly two-thirds of these potential applicants have annual salaries of less than $50,000.
However, the Department of Education has denied relief to over 99-percent of applicants. The first PSLF borrowers became eligible for forgiveness in October 2017. Since then, 90,962 people have applied for loan discharge pursuant to PSLF, but only 845 people have received it.
Federal government reports admit that the Department of Education made pervasive errors, including making mistakes in record-keeping, providing inaccurate information to borrowers, steering borrowers to take actions that made them ineligible, and failing to explain why applications were denied. In this lawsuit, student borrowers claim that these types of errors led the department to deny their PSLF applications.
The Maryland Department of Labor’s Student Loan Ombudsman receives and attempts to resolve complaints from student loan borrowers against loan servicers.
Borrowers may contact the Ombudsman for help at 410-230-6077 (toll-free 1-888-784-0136) or by e-mail at email@example.com.
The Ombudsman may refer any matter that is abusive, unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent to the Maryland Office of the Attorney General for civil enforcement or criminal prosecution.
In addition to Maryland, the brief is signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.