This is unacceptable. Our government has promised public service workers to help them, and we cannot let them down. We are deeply grateful that the Biden administration is temporarily making it easier to navigate the program and seek long-term solutions. But at the end of the day, we need Congress to step up and fix this flawed system for good.
The PSLF program was promulgated with bipartisan support and promulgated by President George W. Bush in 2007. The logic of the program is simple: Public service jobs generally pay less than jobs in the for-profit sector. And many students leave their studies with large student debts. As a result, public service employers struggle to attract workers. The PSLF helps alleviate this problem, which is particularly acute in small towns and rural areas, by encouraging students to enter the public sphere.
As the Mayor of Houston and President of the Association of African American Mayors, I can say with confidence that the program is indeed crucial in helping government agencies and public interest organizations recruit and retain talented employees. in critical service areas. It is an important lifeline for cities large and small. Communities across the country are struggling to get the staff they need in their education, health care, law enforcement and justice systems. Retention is a particular problem; It is common for young workers to take public service jobs to gain experience and then use that experience to move into higher paying jobs in the for-profit sector. The PSLF is a major incentive for young workers to stay in the public service for at least 10 years and greatly increases their ability to contribute to their communities.
To continue the success of the program for generations to come, the PSLF should permanently accept all types of federal repayment plans, including allowing borrowers to consolidate their loans without losing credit on payments made prior to consolidation while they worked in the public service. And borrowers should be entitled to loan forgiveness if their total payment amount equals 120 monthly payments. This includes payments made in installments and payments “prepaid” on the amount owed.
PSLF strengthens communities across our country by helping us recruit and retain talented Americans in critical public service jobs. Our cities and local governments need this program to work well so that we can usher in the next generation of talent and deploy it where the country needs it most.