Education Secretary Betsy DeVos oversees something called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which was created in 2007 and aims to incentivize public service by discharging the enrollee’s student loans after 10 years.
It sounds like a great idea—though not as good as the much preferable student debt relief for everyone. The only problem is that under DeVos, almost no one is getting the relief promised to them. Politico reported in May that a whopping 1 percent of the “the teachers, nurses, public defenders, military personnel and other public servants” in the first round of borrowers had been accepted for student loan relief.
And so on Thursday, the American Federation of Teachers union filed a federal lawsuit against DeVos and the Department of Education, accusing the DOE of “arbitrary and capricious action,” “inadequate notice of denials,” and violating due process. “Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a right, but Betsy DeVos has turned it into a crapshoot,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
Among other things, AFT is requesting that the court approve the loan applications of the eight plaintiffs in the case, as well as an order requiring DeVos to give those denied under the program “a meaningful process to account for errors and misrepresentations” and a halt to rejections “until the Court has approved ED’s proposed procedures to alleviate the violations alleged.”
DeVos spokesperson Liz Hill told Politico that while the agency doesn’t “comment on pending litigation,” it’s “faithfully administering the complex program Congress passed.” That must be why so many people are so thrilled with how it’s working.
This is just the latest in a series of lawsuits against the DOE over loan forgiveness. Last month, seven borrowers who attended for-profit colleges sued the department over an Obama-era rule meant to forgive loans for borrowers if their schools “misled them or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain laws”; the suit claims that more than 160,000 people have applied for the program and all are still waiting for a decision.
DeVos tried to formally delay the implementation of the same rule in 2017, but a federal judge ruled against the DOE last year, saying the reasoning given for the delay was “arbitrary and capricious.”