Borrowers who had their loans discharged through Public Service Loan Forgiveness or were on track for cancellation saw improved credit scores and higher rates of homeownership, a new report found.
Researchers at University of Memphis and the University of Michigan surveyed borrowers in the program to examine how remaining repayments and debt relief affect a person’s savings, credit score or homeownership, and well-being as measured by financial stress, psychological distress, life satisfaction and job satisfaction. The paper, released Tuesday in partnership with the Student Borrower Protection Center, is an initial analysis of the first round of survey, which was conducted from August to September 2022.
About 84 percent of those surveyed who had their loans forgiven were homeowners as well as 64 percent of those in repayment. Credit scores were higher for those who had their loans discharged. The researchers didn’t find a strong relationship between remaining repayments or forgiveness and savings, either for retirement or not.
“There were no strong trends between remaining payments and forgiveness and reports of suicidal thoughts, drinking alone, or non-prescription drug use,” the report says. “However, evidence suggests that those with 37-60 payments remaining could use additional socioemotional supports.”
Researchers did find that borrowers several years away from forgiveness showed “concerning levels of risky behaviors and may need added supports.”
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program began in 2007 as a way for individuals working at a nonprofit or in a government job to have their federal student loans forgiven after making payments for 10 years. However, borrowers rarely had their debts forgiven through the program because of a myriad of issues. The U.S. Department of Education’s fixes for the program will go into effect July 1.
“These preliminary findings help us better understand the benefits of realized debt cancellation and underscore the need to ensure that borrowers within PSLF enjoy reliable pathways to promised debt relief,” the report says.