A coalition of more than 30 higher education, consumer and veterans' groups on Tuesday called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to discharge the student loans of about 350,000 disabled borrowers.
Under the Higher Education Act, student loan borrowers with total and permanent disabilities are entitled to apply for a discharge of their outstanding debt. The Education Department already plans to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding loan debt for roughly 25,000 disabled veterans in July, without making them apply for relief. The move came after data showed few veterans who are eligible for forgiveness applied for it, perhaps because they didn’t know they could.
In a letter to DeVos on Tuesday, Student Defense and the other groups said a similar problem exists for other disabled people. Over 60 percent of the 571,527 borrowers identified by the Social Security Administration as eligible for student loan relief have applied for it, said the groups, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Consumer Law Center and the Institute for College Access and Success.
“The only thing standing in the way of relief for 350,000 Americans with disabilities is Betsy DeVos’s will to get it done,” Alex Elson, senior counsel for Student Defense, said in a statement. “She is going so far as to seize the disability benefits that many borrowers with disabilities depend on to survive, all to collect on loans she knows they do not owe. Secretary DeVos has the power to end this injustice immediately.”