Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and the Trump administration are proposing we slash the budget of the Department of Education by 10.6 billion dollars, with a portion of those cuts coming from cancelling the popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, a federal program aimed at making low paying public service jobs like teaching and social work more appealing by promising to “forgive” the students’ school loans after 10 years of service. Jobs for non-profit companies also count towards the 10 years.
The PSLF was created in 2007 in the hopes of making jobs that typically do not pay enough to justify going into what can sometimes be hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt accessible to more people. Untold numbers of students have since entered into student loan agreements with the understanding that they would not have to pay off the loans once they reached 10 years of public service. According to Adam Minsky, one of the nation’s leading experts on student loan law, these students have signed promissory notes with the PSLF spelled out in their loan terms. These contracts could mean legal trouble for Devos and the Department of Education should they cancel the program and not find some way of grandfathering current students in. Minsky said:
After PSLF’s creation in 2007, the program has been expressly written into Direct federal student loan promissory notes (the contracts setting forth the terms and conditions of Direct program loans). I’ve spoken to several legal experts who believe it might be a contractual violation for the federal government to eliminate a program that is expressly made available by contract. They could eliminate the clause from future contracts, for future borrowers, but not for current borrowers.
Betsy Devos is a billionaire. She was raised a billionaire and then married an even bigger billionaire. It may unrealistic to expect her to understand the trials and tribulations of regular people, working at their lowing paying government or public service jobs, trying to scrape by and feed their families while paying off thousands of dollars in student loan debts. After all, her billionaire daddy undoubtedly footed the bill for her expensive education at a private Christian college.
But threatening to cancel a student loan forgiveness program in order to save money and supposedly balance a budget while the same administration is proposing historic tax breaks for
her family the wealthy seems like more than just an innocent ignorance of the needs of lower and middle-class Americans. It seems criminal.