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NYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program
A New York City middle school art teacher testified Thursday before the House Committee on Education, Labor and Pensions about why she joined a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her handling of a student loan forgiveness program.
Kelly Finlaw told the committee that after she had made 10 years of payments, she applied for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), which cancels the balance for public sector workers once they reach the 10-year mark, but was told one of her loans was ineligible.
"If the PSLF program wasn't meant for me - a teacher who loves her job, pays her bills and comes from a family where loans were her only option - who was it meant for," Finlaw said in prepared remarks Thursday.
"Teaching isn't a career that garners much respect from anyone outside the profession, but this promise was validation that the work we do every day is valuable," she added.
Finlaw has joined a lawsuit filed in July by the American Federation of Teachers, of which she is a member.
"[I]nstead of working with lawmakers to improve the program that millions of teachers, firefighters, nurses and first responders deserve, DeVos has vandalized it," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement in July.
The committee called the hearing to examine how DeVos has implemented the forgiveness program, which was created in 2007, meaning the first beneficiaries qualified in 2017.
Department data indicate only about 1 percent of more than 73,000 applicants have been granted debt relief under the program. DeVos has blamed the complexity of Congress's program design for these rates and has attempted to end the program for new borrowers, so far unsuccessfully.
James Steeley, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which exclusively handles the PSLF, refused to testify, writing in a letter to Chairman Bobby Scott (R-Va.) "As a federal servicer, PHEAA is strictly bound by the laws, regulations and guidance of the programs put forward by Congress and the Department," according to CNN.