Biden's Education Department is considering avenues to make 450,000 more workers eligible for a key student-debt cancellation program

President Joe Biden
US President of the United States Joe Biden delivers remarks on student debt and lowering costs for Americans at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin, United States on April 8, 2024. Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images
  • The Education Department is requesting information on expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness eligibility.

  • It's considering the inclusion of for-profit early childhood educators in PSLF.

  • 450,000 more workers could benefit from the program if they have federal loans, per federal estimates.

President Joe Biden's Education Department wants feedback on making more student-loan borrowers eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

PSLF forgives student debt for government and nonprofit workers after 10 years of qualifying payments, and under Biden, over 900,000 borrowers have been approved for relief through the program.

However, according to an announcement from the Education Department last week, the program has excluded early childhood educators since its inception in 2007 because many of them run small businesses, and their own or their employer's for-profit tax statuses make them ineligible for PSLF.

As a result, the Education Department issued a Request for Information on what it would entail to extend PSLF eligibility to early childhood educators. This could make 450,000 workers eligible for the program if they have federal student loans, according to data from the HHS's National Survey of Early Care and Education.

"Early childhood educators help young children learn, grow, and thrive. But they are often poorly compensated, and student debt is a problem," Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said in a statement. "If these educators can access Public Service Loan Forgiveness, we can help our youngest children, their families, and their communities."

The public can submit comments to the Federal Register regarding information, research, and suggestions on including for-profit early childhood educators in PSLF here. The public comment period ends on July 22.

According to background information from the Education Department, this information request will not be used as part of the formal rulemaking process related to for-profit workers and PSLF eligibility; rather, it'll be used to help the department develop non-rulemaking approaches related to this issue.

Expanding student-loan forgiveness eligibility to these workers could be significant, particularly because early childhood educators are among the lowest-paid jobs in the US, largely made up of women. According to Berkeley's Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, those working full-time with toddlers and infants are paid up to $8,375 less a year than those who work with preschoolers. Immigrants and women of color are disproportionately impacted by this disparity.

This follows work the Education Department has already done to reform PSLF. Through its one-time account adjustments, the department is bringing borrowers' payments through PSLF and income-driven repayment plans up to date, getting them closer to the loan forgiveness promised through the programs.

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