The federal program for forgiving student loan debt as part of a prolonged commitment to public service could get easier to navigate, under actions outlined in President Joe Biden’s customer experience executive order signed Dec. 14.
The order instructs the secretary of the Treasury, the secretary of Defense, the secretary of Education and the director of the Office of Personnel Management to collaborate on streamlining the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Under that program, public servants at the federal, state, local and tribal level can have their student loans forgiven if they make consistent payments against those loans 120 times, while working in their public capacity.
That number of payments means most feds will only become eligible after 10 years of public service.
The order does not specify how exactly those agency heads should streamline the program, but the process as it exists today often requires employees to regularly submit forms to confirm they are still working for a qualified employer. Otherwise, once the employee reaches the 120-payment threshold, they will have to submit additional documentation for any covered employer they worked for but did not submit a form under.
According to the federal student aid site, those who do not submit regular forms are likely in for a longer processing time, once they apply for full forgiveness.
The executive order also instructs agencies to integrate customer service needs and improvements into their human capital management and senior official performance reviews, though it again does not specify how such integration should take place.
The order calls on agencies like the Social Security Administration to develop ways for applicants to submit their paperwork online, such as by removing requirements for in-person signatures.
Such changes could ultimately affect agency telework and remote work plans, as fewer essential services require in-person staff to accomplish.
For SSA in particular, this could have a notable impact on an agency that has recently remained hesitant about expanded telework, due to customer expectations for expedient in-person service.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.