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US Department of Education on Wednesday Big changes revealed For a troubled student loan forgiveness program designed for borrowers working in public service jobs – but it has been criticized for its complex requirements.

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The new temporary changes will bring an estimated half a million borrowers closer to becoming debt-free.

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The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program was launched in 2007 as a reward for college students who go on to public service, including many teachers, nurses, social workers, and military members. By the time he made 10 years’ worth of payments on his federal student loans, the program promised to wipe out the remainder.

But since its creation, the program has helped only 5,500 borrowers clear their debt. After a decade of making payments, many borrowers have found that they have the wrong type of federal loan or repayment plan in order to be eligible for the program.

According to the Associated Press, more than 90% of applicants who have been rejected are stuck in debt that they thought would eventually clear up.

Under the new changes, those borrowers will now be eligible to clear their debt. The Department of Education announced an “overhaul” to the program, saying it would skip some of the toughest requirements and could result in debt relief for thousands of teachers, social workers, military members and other public servants.

related: Many colleges, universities cancel tuition loans for students for COVID-19 relief

Borrowers who have worked 10 years in a qualifying job will be eligible for debt relief, regardless of whether they have a federal loan or repayment plan, by October 31, 2022. Past loan payments that were previously ineligible will now be counted, bringing some borrowers closer. to the finish line, the department said.

According to the department, the change would make 22,000 borrowers eligible to cancel loans immediately, and another 27,000 could become eligible if they certify past payments.

In total, more than 550,000 borrowers will be moved closer to forgiveness “with the average borrower receiving 23 additional payments,” the agency said.

“Borrowers who dedicate a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of public service loan forgiveness. The system has not delivered on that promise to date,” said US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

“Teachers, nurses, first responders, servicemen and many public service workers have had our backs especially in the midst of the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden administration is showing that we have their backs too,” Cardona said.

FILE – U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photographer: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This is especially beneficial for borrowers with Federal Family Education Loans, a passive loan program that issues federally backed loans through banks. Loans in that program, which ended in 2010, were previously ineligible, but can now be canceled through updated rules.

The department will also allow military members to count time to 10 years on active duty, even if they pause making their payments during that time.

The department noted how members of the military often “discover that the same deferment or forbearance did not count” when serving our nation on behalf of the student loan forgiveness program.

“This change ensures that members of the military will no longer need to focus on their student loans while serving our country,” the department said.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.