Broken Promises: Teachers Sue U.S. Over Student Loans That Weren't Forgiven

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Support for this podcast and the following message come from Google from Connecticut California from Mississippi to Minnesota. Millions of businesses are using Google tools to grow online learn. How Google is supporting businesses in your state at Google dot com mm slash economic impact now we haven't n._P._R.? Exclusive one of the biggest teachers unions in the country is suing the U._S. Department of Education. It's alleging that alone. Forgiveness Program for millions of public service workers is in in such a shambles that it is illegal. N._P._R.'s Chris Arnold has gotten a copy of the complaint filed in court today and he brought us this report. The programs designed to encourage people to work in public service must either governments or non profit work so nurses nurses police officers librarians teachers. All kinds of other jobs congress said more than a decade ago that basically if you make your loan payments for ten years and you work in public service the program will forgive the rest of your federal student loan debt that. That sounds like a really good deal to a lot of people and more than a million have filed official paperwork for the program but the Department of Education is just cannot seem to get this right they keep making mistakes and are not appropriately administering this program I am the Congress has created. That's Christopher Peterson. He's a law professor at the University of Utah and a former top attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and he may be understating things. Here's a number that you need to know one percents percents but the education department's own couch of the people who think they've made their ten years payments and they apply for loan forgiveness. Only one percent are getting approved that means if you took all of the people getting rejected and got them together other into one place you'd have football stadiums full of nurses firefighters teachers law enforcement officers that are seeking to have their debts forgiven having made all of these payments under the impression. Question that they were on track and now they're being turned away in droves this has sparked a growing number of lawsuits many against the loan servicing companies that manage student loans for the Department of Ed but Peterson says this latest one ratchets catches up the pressure. Here's a teacher's Union representing one point seven million members suing the Education Department Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers and she says this program is hurting the very people its supposed to help and it's so broken so broken that it violates our basic United States constitution requirement of due process the basic fairness clause of the United States constitution and that is the core of this lawsuit okay so to understand what's going wrong here. We're going to zoom in on just one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs okay well. My name is Debbie Baker. <hes> I'm actually a music teacher. I knew that <hes>. That I had the correct employment I mean Good Grief Public Schoolteacher Oklahoma teachers don't make that much many and they certainly didn't then and I thought this is great so back ten years ago. Baker says she looked under student loan statements called up that eight hundred number and and said I WANNA do this public service loan forgiveness thing that's what the Department of Education tells people that they should do that number connects you to a loan servicing company which the government hires to advise people with student loans and collect their payments. I called them up. I told them I heard about it and they explained that basically went on income sensitive repayment plan and that after you've made one hundred twenty payments you could apply for the program so it was it was that easy bigger says each year here she'd call back do paperwork and she'd say I'm working towards public service loan forgiveness ear Liz everything good qualifying for public service loan forgiveness and they said okay great over the years she dealt with different loan servicing companies. One of them was navient. And one of the nation's biggest and as the ten year finish line approach to Baker was getting pretty excited and right then she didn't have a lot to be happy about her adult son in his twenties had been stricken with a degenerative disease. You know he was living at home with us on mm full-time care we were caring for him. <hes> we put my mother in a nursing facility and so this was a bright spot like this Kennedy great but that seventy six thousand dollars in student loans did not get forgiven because in the end Baker was told that she was in the wrong type of loan and so none of her payments over the past years counted towards debt forgiveness if somebody at the call centers would have just told her that ten years before she easily could switched into the right kind alone to qualify for forgiveness but she says nobody told her so that never happened and when this hit I just I didn't know whether to cry throw up. Get Mad. I just didn't know what to do. I honestly did not think the federal government would do this to someone the. The Union's lawsuit alleges that lots of other borrowers got bad information too and also that services aren't keeping track of how many payments people are making that are supposed to count towards loan forgiveness. The loan servicer navient said in a statement quote. We understand the frustration borrowers face in navigating complex federal loan program which is why we consistently advocate for policy reforms to simplify the system the lawsuit from the Teacher's Union wants the court to take more immediate action Christopher Christopher Peterson. They're asking for a court to order the Department of Education to go back to the drawing board and try to redesign this program to make sure that that the public that teachers but also firefighters nurses police officers that they're going to get a a reasonable the opportunity to have their debts forgiven. They were promised by Congress. The Department of Education is not commenting on the lawsuit yet. The Teacher's Union is also asking for an effective appeals process for people who believe that they've been treated unfairly. We should note that the department.

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