WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Biology professor Sunshine Brosi says she went into teaching for two reasons: her love for education and a government promise to pay off her remaining student debt after a decade of public service and monthly loan payments.
“I grew up in poverty and I thought that teaching and education was a way get out of poverty,” said Brosi, who took out $120,000 in student loans.
But now, the 42-year-old professor says her financial future is in jeopardy because the U.S. Department of Education isn’t holding up its side of the deal.
“I’ll be paying until the year 2040 on my student loans and I’ll be 62 years old when my student loans are paid off,” she said.
“Instead of helping my grandchildren pay for their college, I’ll be paying off my own college,” she added.
The program is designed to pay off the debt of anyone who makes 10 years of monthly loan payments while working in a public service field like nursing or teaching. But an audit published Thursday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that over the last two years, 99% of requests made to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program were rejected.
Brosi’s application was rejected twice.
“It really just breaks my heart. I feel like they’ve just completely given me misinformation and misdirected me,” Brosi said.
“You know something really stinks,” said Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers.
Last year, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $700 million to improve the loan forgiveness application process. The audit revealed they only spent $27 million.
“We were disheartened… I mean, the hope is that you have this temporary expanded process, and you want it to help a lot of people. And you don’t want borrowers to be confused about the eligibility criteria and to face a high denial rate. And yet, that’s what we found,” said audit author Melissa Emrey-Arras.
“It’s the department has given people the royal run-around,” Weingarten said. “
You can call one day and get one set of information you call another day, you get another set of information,” she added.
The union is now suing the U.S. Department of Education over how it’s handling the program, saying it’s complete negligence.
“It feels like they’re outright misrepresenting people to make a buck because they don’t care they don’t care about this situation,” said Weingarten.
The U.S. Department of Education responded to the complaints with the following statement:
“The Department expects few people to be immediately eligible for a loan discharge under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program due, in large part, to complexities of the program Congress created more than a decade ago.”
The U.S. Department of Education says it won’t comment on pending lawsuits, but says it’s working to improve the program.
As of May, the federal agency accepted 661 applications out of the 54,184 loan forgiveness requests. The majority of denials stated the borrower didn’t apply for the program in the first place.