For a Better Life, for Equity and Civil Rights, for Freedom and for a Voice at Work and in Our Democracy
The rising cost of higher education has led more than 45 million people in the United States to seek out student loans to finance their pursuit of higher education, borrowing over $1.6 trillion. Of these borrowers, 1 in 4 are now in distress—they’re behind on, or not able to pay, the full amount of their monthly payments, or they have gone into default. Relief is available for borrowers in distress, but student loan servicers and the U.S. Department of Education seem to confuse or misdirect borrowers as often as they help them.
Student Debt Clinics: You Are Not “A Loan”
Texas AFT’s Student Debt Clinics are 90-minute programs that:
- Assess the experience of borrowers in the midst of a national student debt crisis;
- Empower borrowers to manage their student debt by giving them information on free federal programs that may lower their monthly payments and lead to their loans being forgiven;
- Introduce borrowers to a free AFT member benefit—an online resource called Summer—that will simplify the management of their student loans; and
- Engage borrowers in union activism to address the student debt crisis and other important issues in their workplace and community.
Student debt clinics provide our members with important information on two free federal debt relief programs:
- Income-driven repayment plans, which are available to every federal student loan borrower, regardless of where they work. Income-driven repayment plans determine your monthly payment based on your adjusted gross income and family size and may save you money.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness allows qualifying federal student loan borrowers to have the money they saved using an income-driven repayment plan forgiven after making payments for 10 years 8while working in public service.
Student debt clinics provide members with information on how these programs work, the steps necessary to take to qualify for them, and best practices to make sure that they are maximizing the benefits available to them.
Introducing Summer: Texas AFT Member Benefit
Support for our members with student debt doesn’t end when they leave the debt clinic. The AFT has partnered with Summer—an online resource that helps borrowers navigate the student loan repayment landscape.
The AFT’s Summer benefit allows members to enroll for free in Summer’s online student loan management platform. Summer’s borrower success team helps our members enroll in and manage the paperwork for income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, find other debt relief programs that are available, and tailor student loan repayment options to their individual needs.
Thousands of AFT members have already joined Summer and are saving, on average, more than $130 per month and $57,000 over the lifetime of their loans. And collectively, AFT members have saved more than $119 million through the AFT-Summer partnership. Our members who attend student debt clinics will receive immediate support in enrolling in Summer. Members can learn more about the AFT Summer member benefit, including how to enroll even without attending a debt clinic, at www.aft.org/benefits/summer.
AFT Settles Student Debt Lawsuit
As of Oct. 12, we reached a settlement in Weingarten v. DeVos. The Department of Education led by Secretary Miguel Cardona agreed to work with us to ensure relief for the countless borrowers who relied on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Millions of Americans will now have their loans completely forgiven or will be properly enrolled in a forgiveness program crediting their years of past payments, putting them much closer to full forgiveness. The AFT’s nurses, educators, public employees, school staff and higher education staff will all benefit from these changes.
Qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- If you’ve worked in public service for 10 years or more and made 10 years of payments on your student loans, you’re likely eligible to have your debt discharged under PSLF.
- Even if you were denied PSLF in the past or your loan service said you didn’t qualify, your application will be reconsidered after this AFT lawsuit settlement.
- Now, the Department of Education will count your past payments retroactively toward the PSLF 120-payment requirement — even if they were made on the “wrong” loan type or “wrong” payment plan.
- You must take advantage of these changes by October 31, 2022, to have your past payments counted.