Is Congress exempt from student loan repayment?
The Biden administration announced changes on April 19, 2022 that would result in immediate student debt relief for some 40,000 borrowers.
The Public Service Forgiveness Program eliminates the debts of government employees and non-profit organizations, who have accumulated at least 10 years of qualifying payments.
However, recent social media posts claim there are also provisions that exempt family members of congressmen and congressional staffers from having to repay student loans.
The demand often hinges on the larger debate over student debt forgiveness, which has become a major polarizing issue across political and generational divides in the United States.
The claim, which has been viewed nearly 300,000 times on the social media platform Telegram, says the children and family members of congressional staffers do not have to repay their college loans.
It was shared on other Telegram channels, including The Daily Expose.
The post read, in part, “Children of congressmen don’t have to pay off their student loans.”
“Staff members of Congressional family members are also exempt from repaying student loans.”
This claim has been shared since at least 2010. Previous iterations of the claim have been debunked by other fact checkers.
In 2011, the US Department of Education told reporters that there were no such provisions in Title IV of the federal student aid programs, which provide loans to members of Congress and the families of congressional staff.
Responding to NewsweekIn its request for comment, the Department of Education asserted that federal staff are not exempt from paying their student debt.
“The U.S. Department of Education requires all federal student loan borrowers to repay their loan(s) plus accrued interest and fees,” the department representative wrote in an email.
The misleading claim surfaced again when the US Department of Education announced its extension of student debt relief to thousands of government agency employees.
“Federal Student Loans offer flexible repayment plans, loan consolidation, forgiveness programs, and more, which can be found at StudentAid.gov,” the email reads.
On April 19, the agency said its Public Service Loan Cancellation Program (PSLF) would be extended to qualify 40,000 workers for immediate debt relief. Several thousand other borrowers with older loans will also receive forgiveness, in addition to “at least three years of additional credit for IDR forgiveness” for an additional 3.6 million people.
The PSLF allows employees of the U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or nonprofit organizations to request a forgiveness of the remaining balance of direct loans after making 120 qualifying monthly payments, while working full-time for an eligible employer. . .
The program, created 15 years ago, had granted only a small fraction of applicants for cancellation until 2021. In March 2022, the Ministry of Education said it had identified 100,000 eligible borrowers for 6 $.2 billion in student debt cancellation.
Government portfolio reports from September 20, 2020 to February 28, 2022 show that the government disbursed $7.1 billion in PSLFs and related waivers, or an average of about $70,883 per borrower.
The Biden administration has recently come under pressure from within the Democratic Party to expand student debt relief to avoid losses in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, writing in the New York Times earlier this week identified the policy among a number of changes the government should explore, in an article titled “Democrats Can Avert Disaster in November.”
In addition to the PSLF, provisions established under the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program state that agencies may “repay federally insured student loans as an incentive to recruit or retain applicants or employees. current agency”.
The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says that under this program, employees are eligible for relief of up to $10,000 per calendar year, for a total of $60,000 per employee. However, to benefit from it, employees must “remain in the service of the paying agency for a period of at least 3 years”.
According to the latest report released to Congress on the federal student loan repayment program, 10,412 employees at 34 agencies received repayments in 2018, totaling $78.7 million.
The allegation is false. Families of congressmen and congressional staffers must pay student loans. It’s true that reimbursement plans are available to federal agency employees in general, not just those in Congress. However, these supports are conditional, requiring that employees have already contributed to service their debts and/or have remained in federal employment for a certain number of years.
FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK