Today, AFT members from California, Florida, Maryland and New York—on behalf of all similarly situated public servants—filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against one of the largest federal student loan servicers, Navient. The suit alleges that Navient misled borrowers about their options regarding enrollment in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.
As a union of 1.7 million professionals, we are committed to helping tackle the student debt crisis by taking on the rigged system that puts corporate profits over public sector workers, and by supporting this national class action.
AFT’s support for this lawsuit is the direct result of the work we have done together as a union over the last several years to help our members struggling with student debt—through AFT Student Debt Clinics, through state legislation and federal regulation, and through our organizing work. We heard our members loud and clear and are sharing the value of being a union member, by taking on the rigged student debt system.
When we launched a member survey specifically targeted on student debt several months ago, we received thousands of responses. Eight out of 10 members said student debt was a major burden or challenge, and a remarkable number of members shared stories about being denied entry into the PSLF program.
Indeed, new data released last week by the Department of Education show that only 96 of the 28,000 borrowers who applied for the program, have actually had their student loans discharged under PSLF.
Upon further investigation, it became clear that Navient was giving bad advice to the teachers, school counselors, PSRPs, healthcare professionals and other public employees the PSLF program was intended to help. The result? Millions of public servants—and many AFT members—are missing out on the possibility of loan forgiveness in exchange for their work in public service. They’re paying thousands of dollars more toward their student debt than they have to, all because Navient wants to keep their loans so that it can keep charging fees, instead of transferring the borrowers to another servicer that administers PSLF. This reckless and negligent behavior was too egregious for us to ignore.
So we moved forward to support the AFT members who filed a national class-action lawsuit on behalf of public sector workers across the country harmed by Navient. This lawsuit, unlike any other suit filed, seeks an injunction to stop the deceptive practices Navient has been accused of engaging in. For more information about this class action, and to learn how it might affect you, click here.
We’ve heard our members’ concerns and complaints about the ruinous effect the debt has had on their lives, and we’ve taken on the student debt crisis as a major campaign. It’s an epidemic, and people are suffering. The stories from members haunt me—from new teachers who can’t stay in the profession because they’re defaulting on their loans, to experienced professionals who can’t retire because they can’t afford payments on their kids’ loans. This crisis affects us all.
Let’s be clear: The lawsuit alone will not fix the student debt crisis. And while we’re not the only ones seeking legal remedies, we know that we need to keep fighting for sustainable funding for higher education, as well as legislative and regulatory safeguards to make college more affordable. We also need to continue to hold the U.S. Department of Education and its contracted private servicers—like Navient—accountable to their responsibility to help student loan borrowers struggling with the burden of student debt and to ensure that loan servicers are not engaged in deceptive activity.
If you want to take action to tell the Department of Education to stop protecting loan servicers like Navient, and to start helping public sector workers enroll in PSLF, click here.