NEW YORK, N.Y. – It was President George W. Bush in 2007 who signed legislation into law that would forgive the student loan debt for Americans who committed to 10 years in a public service job.
In theory, a quarter of Americans would qualify, but more than a decade later, a Department of Education report reveals that 99% of public servants who’ve applied for the loan forgiveness have been denied.
That includes Kelly Finlaw, a public-school art teacher in New York City.
“After 10 years of making payments, October 2017 was my light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kelly Finlaw. “I remember standing in my living room when the light at the end of the tunnel went dark. The dept of education denied my application for public service loan forgiveness.”
Finlaw is now part of a class action lawsuit, with the American Federation of Teachers, suing Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education.
“Some people wouldn’t have gone into education, some people wouldn’t have gone into the public service that they chose, if they knew their loans wouldn’t have been forgiven,” said Finlaw. “The idea is you have taken a pay cut to do something to better the world, and because of that pay cut, we are going to return the pay cut in some aspect.”
Last year, the Department of Education promised to make some changes to improve the number of applications being approved. However, the Trump administration has recently proposed a budget that defunded the program altogether.
“Taking away a program like this really shows the Trump administration’s Priorities,” said Finlaw.
Aaron Ament is with the National Student Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit, helping people like Finlaw deal with their individual public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) problems.
“This isn’t something that is split among Democrat or Republican lines,” said Ament. “People of all ideologies work in public sector jobs, whether it’s teachers or working military, and I think it’s something that affects Americans everywhere.”
“Why do you want this program to fail? I would guess your kids are not in public school,” said Finlaw. “I would guess no one in your family is directly affected by it. I would guess you don’t know a me.”