DOD Could Benefit From Additional Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Information, Says GAO

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is intended to encourage people to enter public service. It forgives the federal student loan balances of eligible borrowers who have made at least 10 years of payments while in certain public service jobs.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that the Department of Education (Education) denied 94% of program applicants from the Department of Defense (DOD). GAO previously found a 99% denial rate for all applicants. 

As of January 2020, Education data show that 287 DOD borrowers received loan forgiveness, while 5,180 DOD borrowers were denied. The most common reasons for the denials were not enough qualifying payments and missing information on the form. 

As its administrator, Education has specialized knowledge about the PSLF program but GAO found it has not shared complete information with DOD. The watchdog says Education officials have not shared with DOD summary information about its personnel who have taken steps to pursue PSLF or service members who may be eligible. Education officials also told GAO that they have not shared the benefits of using the PSLF program together with DOD’s student loan repayment program. 

Further, GAO found that Education officials have also not updated the student loan guide for service members with specific information on PSLF. 

DOD officials expressed interest in obtaining more program information. DOD does not widely use the PSLF program for recruitment and retention to promote readiness despite facing challenges in certain specialty career fields. Some DOD officials GAO interviewed stated that they preferred to use other DOD benefits and incentives that DOD directly controls, such as bonuses or DOD’s student loan repayment program. GAO says DOD could enhance its recruitment and retention efforts to promote readiness with department-wide and service-specific guidance about how the PSLF program could be used as a tool for such efforts.

GAO is making five recommendations to increase information sharing about the PSLF program. These include that DOD provide information to its personnel and issue guidance to its officials about the program, and that Education and DOD collaborate to share information about the program. Education concurred and DOD partially concurred.

Read the full report at GAO

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