Attorney General Rob Bonta and Advocates Unveil New Campaign to Help Student Loan Borrowers Receive Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Jackie Filson, Student Borrower Protection Center (
Cody Hounanian, Student Debt Crisis Center (

Nearly a million Californians can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), but only 10,000 have received it. The new “California Student Debt Challenge” seeks to distribute key PSLF information to borrowers before the Oct 31st 2022 deadline.


Background: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program for public service workers that cancels the remainder of their federal student debt after 10 years of work. While previous poor communication severely limited successful PSLF applications, the federal government has temporarily increased the program’s eligibility until October 31, 2022.

California Student Debt Challenge: In order to help as many borrowers as possible, during this temporary PSLF eligibility expansion, advocates from the Campaign for California Borrowers’ Rights have partnered to educate borrowers on Public Service Loan Forgiveness and encourage public service employers to do the same by accepting the “California Student Debt Challenge.” Working directly with CA Challenge partners, the California Department of Justice, Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, and the City and County of San Francisco, the CA Challenge is both an education and PSA campaign that will ensure student loan borrowers have key information to achieve debt forgiveness. CA Challenge takers, representing state, city, county, and non-profit workers, have agreed to:

  • Provide information on PSLF to their employees from August to September, including critical letters, emails, and training webinars helping borrowers secure loan forgiveness.
  • Sign employees’ required PSLF forms to certify employment to achieve loan forgiveness.
  • Be named as an official challenge-taker.

August 8th Campaign Launch: Because the deadline to apply for PSLF under the limited waiver opportunity is October 31, 2022, the California Student Debt Challenge will be most active from August to the end of October. August is also California’s official Student Loan Debt Awareness Month with the passage of HR 118 (Bonta) and SR 96 (Limón). Starting with today’s launch the campaign will work with a diverse group of challenge-taker organizations including nonprofit organizations and government entities and call on more California public service employers to join the CA Challenge. The first California Student Debt Challenge Stakeholder Call will be held August 24th at 12:00p.m. PT for current, new, and potential CA Challenge takers to learn more and ask questions about student loans, PSLF and the CA Challenge. Registration link here.

“Today, on behalf of the more than 5,000 public servants at the California Department of Justice, I’m proud to take the California Student Debt Challenge. As Attorney General, I have fought to expand access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and I urge all eligible Californians to take advantage of this important opportunity,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Our public servants work day in and day out on behalf of the people of California as our nurses, teachers, first responders, state workers, and more. As students, they took out student loans only to find themselves weighed down by debt and denied the relief they were promised. My team has advocated for years for the Department of Education to fix this broken program, and with the recent changes under the Biden Administration, Californians are finally beginning to receive relief. If you are a public servant who holds federal student loan debt, I urge you to take advantage of the new PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity before the October 31 deadline.”

“Nearly 4 million Californians owe a total of $140 million in student loan debt – with women and people of color being disproportionately impacted,” said Senator Limón. “In an economy where higher education is a prerequisite to a better job for many, we cannot allow dreams to be stifled by debt. Students deserve access to higher education without having to worry about the debt they will owe after graduation day. I am proud to author SR 96 and uplift Student Loan Debt Awareness Month.”

The following quote can be attributed to Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland): “I graduated with over $150,000 in student debt. I was in my 20s then. I didn’t make my final payment until almost 20 years later, just in time to send my oldest daughter to college. Women carry two-thirds of the nationwide student debt. Black and Latino students, coming from low-income communities take on a disproportionate amount of school debt. It is almost soul crushing, that the trade-off for so many students to achieve their educational goals is to take out large student loans. While California has been a leader in finding ways to make college more affordable, there needs to be a nation-wide strategic effort. This includes spreading awareness on the programs available that can help relieve and in some cases forgive these debts. My resolution, HR 118, declares August 2022 as California Student Loan Debt Awareness Month and highlights how critical it is to inform students about these options and calls on schools, the private sector and the public sector to work together to ease student debt.”

“Earlier this year, in response to a motion I spearheaded, the LA County Departments of Human Resources and Consumer and Business Affairs launched an awareness campaign to educate our workforce and contracted partners on the public service loan forgiveness program. And since the awareness campaign launched, interest in the public service loan forgiveness program has increased, with more than 25,000 employees having connected with outreach materials distributed by our departments,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “It is imperative that we support public service workers in accessing loan forgiveness who contribute greatly to our communities and have sacrificed so much during the pandemic.”

“Almost 15,000 California public servants have been approved for loan forgiveness under this program. Many more are moving forward toward the magic ten-year mark. They are employees of city, county, state, and federal governments and many qualifying nonprofits. We want every Californian who deserves this key financial relief to know about it and get it,” said Richard Cordray, Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid.

“The DFPI is committed to promoting better awareness of PSLF and helping Californians who have student loans and work in public service receive the benefits to which they are entitled. We are thrilled to partner with other government and nonprofit organizations in this crucial effort,” said Suzanne Martindale, Senior Deputy Commissioner, California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation.

“Working in public service in an expensive City like San Francisco can be incredibly challenging. Like millions of Californians, our public servants in San Francisco are struggling to repay student debt,” said José Cisneros, Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco. “San Francisco is excited to join the Student Debt Challenge and help our employees save thousands of dollars in debt. I urge anyone working in public service in San Francisco to check out the resources we have available to help! I am grateful to our partners at NextGen California, Young Invincibles, Student Debt Crisis Center, Student Borrower Protection Center, and Consumer Reports for making this Challenge possible.”

“Student debt hurts recruitment, retention and diversity in the nonprofit workforce and it is incumbent upon all of us in the nonprofit sector to help the estimated 160,000 nonprofit staff with loans to get out from under these burdensome debts,” said Jan Masaoka, CEO of CalNonprofits. “Borrowers need to know about the waiver before the deadline and we’ll do all we can to support that effort.”

“The student debt crisis continues to be a barrier to our generation’s ability to achieve economic security,” said Sarah Bouabibsa, West Advocacy Manager, Young Invincibles. “In a period of unprecedented challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, opportunities such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can provide nearly a million Californians a crucial stepping stone toward financial stability. We call on non-profit organizations, state and local agencies, and public service employers to take the California Student Debt Challenge and provide their employees with PSLF waiver education and support so that they can take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for public service workers in California who are struggling with their student loans,” said Winston Berkman-Breen, Policy Counsel and Deputy Director for Advocacy at the Student Borrower Protection Center. “A federal program for cancelling these debts already exists, but these short-term changes make it a lot easier for Californians to access it. We’re making it easy for government and non-profit employers to help deliver this opportunity to their workforces before the October 31, 2022 deadline. Let’s not leave any free money on the table.”

“The ongoing student debt crisis continues to trap millions of Californians in a cycle of economic and financial hardship, but thanks to new federal actions on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program an estimated 825,000 California public service workers may now be eligible for some relief,” said Samantha Seng, Legislative Director and Policy Advisor, NextGen California. “During the pandemic, it was the public service workers – teachers, emergency responders, and other essential workers – who showed up and continued to serve their communities under difficult situations. It’s time we do right by them! NextGen is calling on all public service employers, non-profit organizations, and state and local government agencies to stand with student borrowers and commit to sharing vitally important information about applying for PSLF by participating in the California Student Debt Challenge.”

“It is crucial that everyday heroes, like nurses, teachers, and social workers, receive the student debt forgiveness that is promised to them by law. While the Biden administration works to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, state leaders are doing their part to ensure thousands of Californians can access this much-needed and well-deserved relief,” said Cody Hounanian, Executive Director, Student Debt Crisis Center.

“Through this campaign, California has a tremendous opportunity to make sure all of its 825,000 government and nonprofit workers with federal student loans are on track to receive Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumer Reports. “Average loan amounts forgiven through the waiver exceed $62,000 per borrower! Nonprofits and employers at every level of government should join the campaign to make sure their employees know how to apply for this tremendous, life-changing benefit.”

The California Student Debt Challenge can be found at

About the Campaign for California Borrowers’ Rights The Campaign for California Borrowers’ Rights is a diverse coalition of organizations representing students, workers, consumers, older people, communities of color, veterans, and millions of other Californians affected by the student debt crisis. The Campaign is led by NextGen California, Young Invincibles, Student Debt Crisis Center, Student Borrower Protection Center, and Consumer Reports. More information about the Campaign is available at