Spotlight on: Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

“PSLF is a critical tool for the veterinary profession, particularly since the veterinary expertise is critical to a range of public sector and nonprofit roles. “

The Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) provides tax-free student loan forgiveness to individuals who have worked ten years in qualifying nonprofit or public-sector roles after making 120 qualifying, on-time loan payments. Many veterinarians who have chosen careers in the nonprofit or public-sector count on PSLF, predominantly because these careers are often less lucrative than those in the private sector. “PSLF is a critical tool for the veterinary profession, particularly since the veterinary expertise is critical to a range of public sector and nonprofit roles” says Alex Sands, Assistant Director of Government Relations at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and a committee member of the Veterinary Debt Initiative.

A government watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently found issues with management of the program. In a September GAO report, problems cited included deficiencies in the Department of Education’s instruction to loan servicers, insufficient guidance on determining qualified employers, and inconsistent information about qualifying loan payments. The report also stated the Department of Education had not provided the servicer or borrowers definitive information to determine which employers qualify a borrower for loan forgiveness.

In October, Veterinary Debt Initiative co-leads AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) joined a broader PSLF Coalition in asking federal officials to determine why many applicants for the PSLF program are being turned down, and to make needed changes to ensure the program serves the veterinarians and other public service employees it should be helping. “AVMA is actively working with lawmakers and federal officials to better understand the issues unfolding with the management of the PSLF Program,” says Sands.  Additionally, 150 House and Senate lawmakers sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requesting information about the management of the program and asking to swiftly address issues.

“We are hopeful that there will be appropriate Congressional attention and oversight on these issues as the next Congress begins in January 2019,” says Sands.  “AVMA will remain active in these efforts to protect and improve the program.”

If a veterinary professional has experienced issues with PSLF or has been denied forgiveness, AVMA wants to hear about it. “It is important that we hear from any veterinarian that has been affected by these rejections or experienced issues with loan servicers,” says Sands. The following link contains a form that can be used to share stories with AVMA’s government relations team: AVMA will contact individuals prior to using their stories in any Capitol Hill or agency discussions.

This summary has been provided by the Veterinary Debt Initiative (VDI). Led by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of the American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the Veterinary Medical Association Executives, VDI is aimed at raising awareness and providing access to helpful resources that will enable pre-veterinary students, veterinary students and veterinarians to make highly informed financial decisions. For more information, visit the VDI website at

 To view the GAO report: