The Department of Education on Wednesday announced that it is expanding a program that aims to lighten student loan debt on public servants.
In a press release, the department said it would begin offering a "time-limited waiver" to "teachers, nurses, firefighters, and others serving their communities" to allow all student loan payments they've made — regardless of the program or lender — to count toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
The Department of Education says the move will allow more than half a million Americans to get closer to student debt cancellation, including 22,000 whose students loans will be immediately discharged.
Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in 2007 as a way to incentivize college grads from entering public service. Those who qualify must work for the government or an approved nonprofit organization and make 120 on-time monthly payments over 10 years. In exchange, the remaining balance of their student loan debt is forgiven.
However, according to The Washington Post, the program has been criticized for being "exceedingly complex and poorly managed." For example, borrowers must be paying back loans provided by the federal government and enrolled in specific repayment plans.
Wednesday's actions temporarily suspended some of those regulations and opened up the program to thousands of people who previously weren't eligible.
"Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told The Post on Wednesday. "The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country."
According to the Department of Education, the limited waiver for the student loan relief program will be open through Oct. 31, 2022. For more info on how to apply, click here.