The ministry highlighted a number of ongoing efforts to address the issue. The “Next Gen” project – a planned technological overhaul of the agency’s loan management system – will allow better oversight, he says. This month, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, personally called loan service leaders to the first of the quarterly performance standards meetings.

“When services fail, we fail and our customers deserve more,” said department spokeswoman Angela Morabito.

Department officials told Congress that they also launched an aggressive information and awareness campaign to better communicate program requirements to borrowers.

In April, the sent a written warning to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency who said the performance of its call center was “totally unacceptable”.

Keith New, spokesperson for the loan service, said he “believes in” the civil service loan forgiveness program and “works tirelessly to help borrowers navigate the complexities of the program.” He added that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency “services the program in accordance with program rules and federal law.”

Under these rules, some borrowers expect to die with their debt.

Originally from Akron, Ohio, Ms. Finlaw, 36, attended a small private college in Indiana and then graduate school in Philadelphia, where she earned a master’s degree in urban studies. Raised by a mother who had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, Finlaw had no choice but to take out loans to pay for her education. She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

She made her payments religiously, provided the documents to show that she remained a teacher, and was repeatedly told that she was on the right track. When her loan officer, Nelnet, declared in the spring of 2017 that she was eligible for the loan cancellation program, Ms. Finlaw did so immediately.


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