Request for Information Regarding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, 40029-40031 [2021-15831]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 140 / Monday, July 26, 2021 / Notices the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (5) how might the Department minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including through the use of information technology. Please note that written comments received in response to this notice will be considered public records. Title of Collection: National Implementation Study of Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV, Part A). OMB Control Number: 1850–NEW. Type of Review: New collection. Respondents/Affected Public: State, Local, and Tribal Governments. Total Estimated Number of Annual Responses: 661. Total Estimated Number of Annual Burden Hours: 327. Abstract: This study will collect information about policy and program implementation of the grants administered under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to describe and report on districts’ decision-making process for use of Title IV, Part A funds, how states help inform districts’ decisions, and what topic areas and activities are funded with Title IV, Part A funds. Dated: July 21, 2021. Stephanie Valentine, PRA Coordinator, Strategic Collections and Clearance, Governance and Strategy Division, Office of Chief Data Officer, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. [FR Doc. 2021–15877 Filed 7–23–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000–01–P DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION [Docket ID ED—2021—OUS—0082] Request for Information Regarding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education. ACTION: Request for information. AGENCY: The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is requesting information in the form of written comments that may include information, research, and suggestions regarding the administration of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The Office of the Under Secretary solicits these comments to identify operational improvements to the PSLF program and to inform determinations about technical improvements, borrower experiences, jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Jul 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 policy considerations, or other factors that should be considered to improve access to PSLF. DATES: We must receive your comments on or before September 24, 2021. ADDRESSES: Submit your response to this request for information (RFI) through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. We will not accept submissions by hand delivery, fax, or email. To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only one time. To ensure that your comments have maximum effect in informing the Department’s administration of the PSLF program, we encourage you to clearly identify the question number or topic (e.g., ‘‘borrower experience,’’ ‘‘proposed administrative/operational improvement,’’ and ‘‘proposed policy change,’’) that each comment addresses. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site under ‘‘FAQ.’’ • Postal Mail or Commercial Delivery: If you do not have internet access or electronic submission is not possible, you may mail written comments to the Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room [7E307], Washington, DC 20202. Mailed comments must be postmarked by September 24, 2021, to be accepted. Privacy Note: The Department’s policy is to make all comments received from members of the public available for public viewing in their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should be careful to include in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly available. This is a request for information only. This RFI is not a request for proposals (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP or a notice inviting applications. This RFI does not commit the Department to contract for any supply or service whatsoever. Further, we are not seeking proposals and will not accept unsolicited proposals. The Department will not pay for any information or administrative costs that you may incur in responding to this RFI. The documents and information submitted in response to this RFI become the property of the U.S. Government and will not be returned. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jean-Didier Gaina, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 40029 Room 2C172, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: (202) 453–7551. Email: jeandidier.gaina@ed.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1–800–877– 8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background It is critical for our Nation to maintain a highly educated public service workforce to serve as teachers, nurses, physicians, servicemembers in our military, social workers, legal aid attorneys, and first responders, and in a wide range of other roles that serve our communities. Concerns about shortages across the public sector and public service workforce have persisted for decades. In response to these concerns about workforce shortages and rising student debt burdens, Congress enacted the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (Pub. L. 110–84) in 2007, creating a range of new benefits and protections for student loan borrowers, including the PSLF program. PSLF offers loan cancellation for Federal student loan borrowers who make 120 qualifying payments made while engaging in eligible public service work.1 The Department is committed to addressing the barriers to attaining PSLF and to providing debt relief to public service workers. To that end, the Department has announced its plans to establish negotiated rulemaking committees to prepare proposed regulations for programs authorized under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (86 FR 28299), including the PSLF program under 34 CFR 685.219. However, the Department recognizes that there may be improvements it can make in the operational administration of the program outside of the regulatory process. Through this RFI, the Department seeks comments from the public to identify such operational opportunities to strengthen the PSLF program. For example, we are interested in ways that we might eliminate administrative barriers to borrowers receiving PSLF. Below, we provide questions to guide responses to this RFI. Although we do not intend to respond to comments received in response to this RFI, public input may inform non1 Under the current rules, borrowers with William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans can make qualifying payments toward PSLF, and borrowers with Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) can consolidate into Direct Consolidation Loans to become eligible for PSLF. E:\FR\FM\26JYN1.SGM 26JYN1 40030 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 140 / Monday, July 26, 2021 / Notices regulatory action by the Department to make this critical program work better for borrowers. Comments with respect to regulatory matters must be made as part of the negotiated rulemaking process. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES II. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program After Congress enacted the College Cost Reduction and Access Act 14 years ago, the Department promulgated regulations to implement the PSLF program. The Department also entered into a contract with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (d/ b/a FedLoan Servicing) to serve as the sole specialty student loan servicer handling borrowers who signal intent to pursue PSLF. Under 34 CFR 685.219, the Department established and subsequently revised the criteria a borrower must satisfy in order to have debts cancelled under PSLF. Specifically, these regulations require a student loan borrower to satisfy five elements. To receive PSLF, a borrower must— 2 • Be employed by a U.S. Federal, State, local, or Tribal government or notfor-profit organization; 3 • Work full-time for that agency or organization or the equivalent of fulltime across multiple agencies or organizations; • Have Direct Loans (or consolidate other Federal student loans into a Direct Loan); • Repay those loans under an incomedriven repayment or standard repayment plan; and • Make 120 qualifying payments. From 2007 through 2012, public service workers with student debt tracked their own progress toward meeting the requirements for PSLF. When borrowers working in public service had questions about eligibility, the Department’s servicers were borrowers’ primary source of information about PSLF. Beginning in 2012, the Department offered student loan borrowers the opportunity to submit an Employer Certification Form (ECF) as a way for borrowers to provide documentation of qualifying employment throughout their service and to ensure their employer was a qualifying employer. In November 2020, the Department combined the ECF into a single application that also allows borrowers to have their status checked for PSLF and Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) (Pub. L. 115–141), 2 https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/ forgiveness-cancellation/public-service. 3 See 34 CFR 685.219 for the complete definition of ‘‘public service organization.’’ VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:10 Jul 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 described below. As of November 30, 2020, student loan borrowers had submitted nearly 5 million individual ECFs.4 As of April 30, 2021, another 391,333 combined applications were submitted.5 On October 1, 2017, the first public service workers with student debt became eligible to receive PSLF. Since that time, the Department has discharged $452,691,032 in student debt owed by 5,467 individual public service workers as of April 30, 2021.6 However, to date nearly 98 percent of student loan borrowers who have applied for PSLF did not receive forgiveness at the time of their application, however the majority of these borrowers have made some progress toward cancellation.7 In response to the problems borrowers have faced while trying to access PSLF, the Department’s Federal Student Aid office has started taking important steps to make improvements to the program.8 Lump-sum payments and prepayments, which would not have previously counted for the purposes of PSLF, will now count toward borrowers’ PSLF qualifying payments for up to 12 months. FSA also launched a new PSLF Help Tool in November 2020 to make it easier for borrowers to navigate PSLF to determine their eligibility and, as noted above, created a single form that allows borrowers to certify their employment and apply for PSLF and TEPSLF.9 In response to the first reports of widespread PSLF application denials, Congress temporarily expanded PSLF to provide debt relief to a broader population of student loan borrowers, establishing TEPSLF. In the three years since TEPLSF was first established, an additional 2,962 public service workers have had approximately $130 million discharged, while more than 96 percent of TEPSLF applications have not resulted in forgiveness.10 III. Solicitation of Comments: Strengthening the Operational Implementation of Public Service Loan Forgiveness The Department recognizes the importance of making the PSLF requirements as clear as possible for 4 https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan- forgiveness/pslf-data. 5 https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loanforgiveness/pslf-data. 6 https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loanforgiveness/pslf-data. 7 https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loanforgiveness/pslf-data. 8 https://studentaid.gov/articles/see-whats-newpslf-program/. 9 https://studentaid.gov/pslf/. 10 https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/ loan-forgiveness/pslf-data. PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 millions of public service workers and is actively working to make improvements to the program’s administration. To help inform those efforts, the Department is seeking input from the public on ways to strengthen the operational implementation of PSLF through changes outside of regulations. The deadline for these submissions is September 24, 2021. The Department encourages comments from individual students and student loan borrowers; organizations representing students and student loan borrowers; labor unions and other organizations representing public service workers; legal services providers and other organizations that provide counseling or direct assistance to student loan borrowers; public service employers; researchers and policy experts; student loan market participants; institutions of higher education; and other members of the public. The Department is interested in responses to the specific questions below, as well as the general concepts and topics identified as they relate to PSLF. The Department is also interested in responses describing individual student loan borrowers’ experiences while working in public service or pursuing PSLF. When responding to this RFI, please address one or more of the following questions: Public Service & Student Debt 1. What are the direct and indirect effects of student debt on America’s public service workforce? 2. What are the direct and indirect benefits of PSLF for America’s public service workforce, including the effects of PSLF on individual borrowers, on the labor market, on communities, and on the populations served by public service workers? 3. Does PSLF provide a strong incentive for borrowers to engage in public service work? How are public service workers’ employment decisions affected by their debt and by PSLF? Experiences With Public Service Loan Forgiveness 4. What borrower experiences should the Department and Congress consider when making improvements to PSLF? 5. What features of PSLF are most difficult for borrowers to navigate? 6. What role do loan servicers play in making it easier or harder for borrowers to access PSLF? 7. What barriers prevent public service workers with student debt from pursuing PSLF or receiving loan forgiveness under PSLF? E:\FR\FM\26JYN1.SGM 26JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 140 / Monday, July 26, 2021 / Notices 8. For borrowers who have or had loans other than from the Direct Loan program, what have your experiences been when trying to access or participate in PSLF? 9. How can communications about PSLF requirements be improved? 10. What are the common questions that borrowers have about PSLF? jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Opportunities To Strengthen PSLF for Borrowers Who Currently Work in Public Service 11. What operational steps can the Department take to strengthen PSLF and better serve public service workers who currently owe student debt, including borrowers who have already applied for and been denied PSLF? 12. What steps can the Department take to improve borrowers’ experiences in applying for PSLF? 13. What steps or improvements can servicers make to improve borrowers’ experiences in applying for PSLF? 14. What can the Department do to better partner with employers to ensure that all borrowers know about the benefits of PSLF? The Effects of the COVID–19 Pandemic on Student Loan Borrowers Working in Public Service 15. How has the COVID–19 pandemic affected borrowers’ ability to access PSLF? 16. Are there any considerations about PSLF that the Department should bear in mind as it prepares for the end of the COVID–19 administrative forbearance on Direct Loans? Accessible Format: On request to the program contact person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, individuals with disabilities can obtain this document in an accessible format. The Department will provide the requestor with an accessible format that may include Rich Text Format (RTF) or text format (txt), a thumb drive, an MP3 file, braille, large print, audiotape, or compact disc, or other accessible format. Electronic Access to This Document: The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. You may access the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations at www.govinfo.gov. At this site you can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the site. You may also access documents of the Department published in the Federal Register by using the article search VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:45 Jul 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 feature at www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published by the Department. Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1087e(m). Julie Margetta Morgan, Delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Under Secretary, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary. [FR Doc. 2021–15831 Filed 7–23–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000–01–P DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION [Docket No.: ED–2021–SCC–0111] Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Implementation of Title I/II–A Program Initiatives—Preliminary Activities Institute of Educational Science (IES), Department of Education (ED). ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, ED is proposing a new information collection. DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before September 24, 2021. ADDRESSES: To access and review all the documents related to the information collection listed in this notice, please use http://www.regulations.gov by searching the Docket ID number ED– 2021–SCC–0111. Comments submitted in response to this notice should be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov by selecting the Docket ID number or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. If the regulations.gov site is not available to the public for any reason, ED will temporarily accept comments at ICDocketMgr@ed.gov. Please include the docket ID number and the title of the information collection request when requesting documents or submitting comments. Please note that comments submitted by fax or email and those submitted after the comment period will not be accepted. Written requests for information or comments submitted by postal mail or delivery should be addressed to the PRA Coordinator of the Strategic Collections and Clearance Governance and Strategy Division, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, LBJ, Room 6W208C, Washington, DC 20202–8240. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For specific questions related to collection activities, please contact Erica Johnson, 202–245–7676. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 40031 The Department of Education (ED), in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)), provides the general public and Federal agencies with an opportunity to comment on proposed, revised, and continuing collections of information. This helps the Department assess the impact of its information collection requirements and minimize the public’s reporting burden. It also helps the public understand the Department’s information collection requirements and provide the requested data in the desired format. ED is soliciting comments on the proposed information collection request (ICR) that is described below. The Department of Education is especially interested in public comment addressing the following issues: (1) Is this collection necessary to the proper functions of the Department; (2) will this information be processed and used in a timely manner; (3) is the estimate of burden accurate; (4) how might the Department enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (5) how might the Department minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including through the use of information technology. Please note that written comments received in response to this notice will be considered public records. Title of Collection: Implementation of Title I/II–A Program Initiatives— Preliminary Activities. OMB Control Number: 1850–NEW. Type of Review: A new information collection. Respondents/Affected Public: State, Local, and Tribal Governments. Total Estimated Number of Annual Responses: 92. Total Estimated Number of Annual Burden Hours: 15. Abstract: When the primary federal law governing K–12 schooling was updated in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it shifted many decisions to states and districts. However, through two of its core programs (Title I and Title II–A), ESSA retained federal requirements for states to set challenging content standards, assess student performance, identify and support low-performing schools, and promote the development of the educator workforce. How states and districts respond to the combination of flexibility and requirements and how policies are enacted in schools and classrooms will determine whether ESSA stimulates educational improvement as intended, which is particularly important in the wake of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\26JYN1.SGM 26JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 140 (Monday, July 26, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 40029-40031]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-15831]


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

[Docket ID ED--2021--OUS--0082]


Request for Information Regarding the Public Service Loan 
Forgiveness Program

AGENCY: Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education.

ACTION: Request for information.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is requesting 
information in the form of written comments that may include 
information, research, and suggestions regarding the administration of 
the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The Office of the 
Under Secretary solicits these comments to identify operational 
improvements to the PSLF program and to inform determinations about 
technical improvements, borrower experiences, policy considerations, or 
other factors that should be considered to improve access to PSLF.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before September 24, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Submit your response to this request for information (RFI) 
through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. We will not accept submissions 
by hand delivery, fax, or email. To ensure that we do not receive 
duplicate copies, please submit your comments only one time. To ensure 
that your comments have maximum effect in informing the Department's 
administration of the PSLF program, we encourage you to clearly 
identify the question number or topic (e.g., ``borrower experience,'' 
``proposed administrative/operational improvement,'' and ``proposed 
policy change,'') that each comment addresses.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to 
submit your comments electronically. Information on using 
Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, 
submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site 
under ``FAQ.''
     Postal Mail or Commercial Delivery: If you do not have 
internet access or electronic submission is not possible, you may mail 
written comments to the Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department 
of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room [7E307], Washington, DC 
20202. Mailed comments must be postmarked by September 24, 2021, to be 
accepted.
    Privacy Note: The Department's policy is to make all comments 
received from members of the public available for public viewing in 
their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at 
www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should be careful to include 
in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly 
available.
    This is a request for information only. This RFI is not a request 
for proposals (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP or a notice inviting 
applications. This RFI does not commit the Department to contract for 
any supply or service whatsoever. Further, we are not seeking proposals 
and will not accept unsolicited proposals. The Department will not pay 
for any information or administrative costs that you may incur in 
responding to this RFI. The documents and information submitted in 
response to this RFI become the property of the U.S. Government and 
will not be returned.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jean-Didier Gaina, U.S. Department 
of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Room 2C172, Washington, DC 20202. 
Telephone: (202) 453-7551. Email: [email protected].
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text 
telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-
800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    It is critical for our Nation to maintain a highly educated public 
service workforce to serve as teachers, nurses, physicians, 
servicemembers in our military, social workers, legal aid attorneys, 
and first responders, and in a wide range of other roles that serve our 
communities. Concerns about shortages across the public sector and 
public service workforce have persisted for decades.
    In response to these concerns about workforce shortages and rising 
student debt burdens, Congress enacted the College Cost Reduction and 
Access Act (Pub. L. 110-84) in 2007, creating a range of new benefits 
and protections for student loan borrowers, including the PSLF program. 
PSLF offers loan cancellation for Federal student loan borrowers who 
make 120 qualifying payments made while engaging in eligible public 
service work.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Under the current rules, borrowers with William D. Ford 
Federal Direct Loans can make qualifying payments toward PSLF, and 
borrowers with Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) can consolidate 
into Direct Consolidation Loans to become eligible for PSLF.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Department is committed to addressing the barriers to attaining 
PSLF and to providing debt relief to public service workers. To that 
end, the Department has announced its plans to establish negotiated 
rulemaking committees to prepare proposed regulations for programs 
authorized under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as 
amended (86 FR 28299), including the PSLF program under 34 CFR 685.219. 
However, the Department recognizes that there may be improvements it 
can make in the operational administration of the program outside of 
the regulatory process. Through this RFI, the Department seeks comments 
from the public to identify such operational opportunities to 
strengthen the PSLF program. For example, we are interested in ways 
that we might eliminate administrative barriers to borrowers receiving 
PSLF. Below, we provide questions to guide responses to this RFI. 
Although we do not intend to respond to comments received in response 
to this RFI, public input may inform non-

[[Page 40030]]

regulatory action by the Department to make this critical program work 
better for borrowers. Comments with respect to regulatory matters must 
be made as part of the negotiated rulemaking process.

II. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

    After Congress enacted the College Cost Reduction and Access Act 14 
years ago, the Department promulgated regulations to implement the PSLF 
program. The Department also entered into a contract with the 
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (d/b/a FedLoan 
Servicing) to serve as the sole specialty student loan servicer 
handling borrowers who signal intent to pursue PSLF. Under 34 CFR 
685.219, the Department established and subsequently revised the 
criteria a borrower must satisfy in order to have debts cancelled under 
PSLF.
    Specifically, these regulations require a student loan borrower to 
satisfy five elements. To receive PSLF, a borrower must-- \2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Be employed by a U.S. Federal, State, local, or Tribal 
government or not-for-profit organization; \3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ See 34 CFR 685.219 for the complete definition of ``public 
service organization.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Work full-time for that agency or organization or the 
equivalent of full-time across multiple agencies or organizations;
     Have Direct Loans (or consolidate other Federal student 
loans into a Direct Loan);
     Repay those loans under an income-driven repayment or 
standard repayment plan; and
     Make 120 qualifying payments.
    From 2007 through 2012, public service workers with student debt 
tracked their own progress toward meeting the requirements for PSLF. 
When borrowers working in public service had questions about 
eligibility, the Department's servicers were borrowers' primary source 
of information about PSLF. Beginning in 2012, the Department offered 
student loan borrowers the opportunity to submit an Employer 
Certification Form (ECF) as a way for borrowers to provide 
documentation of qualifying employment throughout their service and to 
ensure their employer was a qualifying employer. In November 2020, the 
Department combined the ECF into a single application that also allows 
borrowers to have their status checked for PSLF and Temporary Expanded 
PSLF (TEPSLF) (Pub. L. 115-141), described below. As of November 30, 
2020, student loan borrowers had submitted nearly 5 million individual 
ECFs.\4\ As of April 30, 2021, another 391,333 combined applications 
were submitted.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan-forgiveness/pslf-data.
    \5\ https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan-forgiveness/pslf-data.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On October 1, 2017, the first public service workers with student 
debt became eligible to receive PSLF. Since that time, the Department 
has discharged $452,691,032 in student debt owed by 5,467 individual 
public service workers as of April 30, 2021.\6\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan-forgiveness/pslf-data.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    However, to date nearly 98 percent of student loan borrowers who 
have applied for PSLF did not receive forgiveness at the time of their 
application, however the majority of these borrowers have made some 
progress toward cancellation.\7\ In response to the problems borrowers 
have faced while trying to access PSLF, the Department's Federal 
Student Aid office has started taking important steps to make 
improvements to the program.\8\ Lump-sum payments and prepayments, 
which would not have previously counted for the purposes of PSLF, will 
now count toward borrowers' PSLF qualifying payments for up to 12 
months. FSA also launched a new PSLF Help Tool in November 2020 to make 
it easier for borrowers to navigate PSLF to determine their eligibility 
and, as noted above, created a single form that allows borrowers to 
certify their employment and apply for PSLF and TEPSLF.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan-forgiveness/pslf-data.
    \8\ https://studentaid.gov/articles/see-whats-new-pslf-program/.
    \9\ https://studentaid.gov/pslf/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In response to the first reports of widespread PSLF application 
denials, Congress temporarily expanded PSLF to provide debt relief to a 
broader population of student loan borrowers, establishing TEPSLF. In 
the three years since TEPLSF was first established, an additional 2,962 
public service workers have had approximately $130 million discharged, 
while more than 96 percent of TEPSLF applications have not resulted in 
forgiveness.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/loan-forgiveness/pslf-data.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

III. Solicitation of Comments: Strengthening the Operational 
Implementation of Public Service Loan Forgiveness

    The Department recognizes the importance of making the PSLF 
requirements as clear as possible for millions of public service 
workers and is actively working to make improvements to the program's 
administration. To help inform those efforts, the Department is seeking 
input from the public on ways to strengthen the operational 
implementation of PSLF through changes outside of regulations. The 
deadline for these submissions is September 24, 2021.
    The Department encourages comments from individual students and 
student loan borrowers; organizations representing students and student 
loan borrowers; labor unions and other organizations representing 
public service workers; legal services providers and other 
organizations that provide counseling or direct assistance to student 
loan borrowers; public service employers; researchers and policy 
experts; student loan market participants; institutions of higher 
education; and other members of the public.
    The Department is interested in responses to the specific questions 
below, as well as the general concepts and topics identified as they 
relate to PSLF. The Department is also interested in responses 
describing individual student loan borrowers' experiences while working 
in public service or pursuing PSLF. When responding to this RFI, please 
address one or more of the following questions:

Public Service & Student Debt

    1. What are the direct and indirect effects of student debt on 
America's public service workforce?
    2. What are the direct and indirect benefits of PSLF for America's 
public service workforce, including the effects of PSLF on individual 
borrowers, on the labor market, on communities, and on the populations 
served by public service workers?
    3. Does PSLF provide a strong incentive for borrowers to engage in 
public service work? How are public service workers' employment 
decisions affected by their debt and by PSLF?

Experiences With Public Service Loan Forgiveness

    4. What borrower experiences should the Department and Congress 
consider when making improvements to PSLF?
    5. What features of PSLF are most difficult for borrowers to 
navigate?
    6. What role do loan servicers play in making it easier or harder 
for borrowers to access PSLF?
    7. What barriers prevent public service workers with student debt 
from pursuing PSLF or receiving loan forgiveness under PSLF?

[[Page 40031]]

    8. For borrowers who have or had loans other than from the Direct 
Loan program, what have your experiences been when trying to access or 
participate in PSLF?
    9. How can communications about PSLF requirements be improved?
    10. What are the common questions that borrowers have about PSLF?

Opportunities To Strengthen PSLF for Borrowers Who Currently Work in 
Public Service

    11. What operational steps can the Department take to strengthen 
PSLF and better serve public service workers who currently owe student 
debt, including borrowers who have already applied for and been denied 
PSLF?
    12. What steps can the Department take to improve borrowers' 
experiences in applying for PSLF?
    13. What steps or improvements can servicers make to improve 
borrowers' experiences in applying for PSLF?
    14. What can the Department do to better partner with employers to 
ensure that all borrowers know about the benefits of PSLF?

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Loan Borrowers Working 
in Public Service

    15. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected borrowers' ability to 
access PSLF?
    16. Are there any considerations about PSLF that the Department 
should bear in mind as it prepares for the end of the COVID-19 
administrative forbearance on Direct Loans?
    Accessible Format: On request to the program contact person listed 
under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, individuals with disabilities 
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provide the requestor with an accessible format that may include Rich 
Text Format (RTF) or text format (txt), a thumb drive, an MP3 file, 
braille, large print, audiotape, or compact disc, or other accessible 
format.
    Electronic Access to This Document: The official version of this 
document is the document published in the Federal Register. You may 
access the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of 
Federal Regulations at www.govinfo.gov. At this site you can view this 
document, as well as all other documents of this Department published 
in the Federal Register, in text or Portable Document Format (PDF). To 
use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at 
the site.
    You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
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    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1087e(m).

Julie Margetta Morgan,
Delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the 
Under Secretary, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2021-15831 Filed 7-23-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P