Several prominent public sector unions sent a letter to President Joe Biden’s administration demanding complete student loan debt forgiveness for public servants.
Fourteen labor unions representing more than 10 million workers wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Thursday, arguing that the federal government has failed public service workers. The letter sharply criticized the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is designed to give student debt relief to public sector workers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for immediate action,” the unions wrote to Cardona.
“Public service workers who should have already benefited from the [PSLF] program are serving on the front lines of our pandemic response — caring for patients, teaching our students, and delivering essential services in communities across the country,” the letter said.
Roughly 98% of all PSLF applicants have been rejected since public sector workers became eligible for student debt cancelation in 2017, the unions said. The qualifications for being approved for a PSLF loan have been narrowly interpreted resulting in a high rejection rate, according to the unions.
“A combination of arbitrary and narrow regulations, mismanagement by the previous administration, and widespread abuses across the student loan industry have conspired to deny a generation of public service workers the promise of PSLF,” the letter said.
The labor unions urged Cardona to initiate a 90-day review of the program and give public service workers affected by the program a say in how it is implemented. They also demanded that, after the 90-day review, the administration cancels all student loan debt for public service workers who have worked for at least a decade.
The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the U.S., led the effort. The American Federation of Government Employees, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the United Auto Workers also signed the letter.
“No matter what we look like, where we live, or what’s in our wallets, all of us should be able to pursue our dreams at an affordable college or university,” NEA President Becky Pringle said. “But today, the cost of college forces many students and families to forego their education goals or be trapped in a lifetime of debt.”
The letter was first reported by Politico.