There are a lot of headlines talking about what Trump is doing to PSLF.
But, to be clear, Trump isn’t doing anything to PSLF.
What Trump has done is release a budget proposal, as the sitting president does every year. This proposal is meant to signal policy goals for the administration, but nothing in it is binding. Presidents don’t make budgets; Congress does. President Trump made similar student loan requests for 2018 as he has for 2019, and they were roundly ignored last year. President Obama recommended capping PSLF during his last years in office, and that was ignored as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think PSLF is going to last forever. It’s going to be much more expensive than the government realized, and pulling out the rug from “rich” doctors may one day prove to be relatively good optics for budget savings.
But, there’s a big difference between PSLF being shuttered in the future (or even next year), and PSLF going away for those are already counting on it.
PSLF is still available, and there’s no reason to ignore it.
Make no mistake, Trump absolutely does want to kill PSLF. However, this is the actual language of the Trump FY2019 budget proposal, and it’s pretty clear that it does not affect old borrowers (emphasis mine):
Reforms Student Loan Programs. In recent years, income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which offer student borrowers the option of making affordable monthly payments based on factors such as income and family size, have grown in popularity. However, the numerous IDR plans currently offered to borrowers overly complicate choosing and enrolling in the right plan. The Budget proposes to streamline student loan repayment by consolidating multiple IDR plans into a single plan. The single IDR plan would cap a borrower’s monthly payment at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. For undergraduate borrowers, any balance remaining after 15 years of repayment would be forgiven. For borrowers with any graduate debt, any balance remaining after 30 years of repayment would be forgiven.
To support this streamlined pathway to debt relief for undergraduate borrowers, and to generate savings that help put the Nation on a more sustainable fiscal path, the Budget eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, establishes reforms to guarantee that all borrowers in IDR pay an equitable share of their income, and eliminates subsidized loans. To further improve the implementation and effectiveness of IDR, the Budget proposes auto-enrolling severely delinquent borrowers and instituting a process for borrowers to consent to share income data for multiple years. To facilitate these program improvements and to reduce improper payments, the Budget proposes to streamline the Department of Education’s ability to verify applicants’ income data held by the Internal Revenue Service. These student loan reforms would reduce inefficiencies and waste in the student loan program, and focus assistance on needy undergraduate student borrowers instead of high-income, high-balance graduate borrowers. All student loan proposals would apply to loans originating on or after July 1, 2019, except those provided to borrowers to finish their current course of study.
“…except those provided to borrowers to finish their current course of study” further supports that students in the middle of the course of study will get grandfathered into PSLF.
So, new borrowers starting in 2019 at the earliest would be part of the new program.
And by new, I mean the US government’s definition of “new,” which really means having no federal loans prior to this date.
- Current students need not panic.
- Former students currently in repayment need not panic.
- Future borrowers who plan to only attend college need not panic (because the new proposal is actually pretty favorable to undergraduate loans).
- Future borrowers who plan to attend expensive graduate schools like medical school should cross their fingers.
And, none of this matters if Congress does this year what they did last year and ignores the problem. Student debt is a hot-button bipartisan issue. Whatever reform, if any, does get passed is unlikely to look like a carbon copy of the Trump plan.