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May 24, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, accompanied by Education Department Budget Service Director Erica Navarro, looks over her notes on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Trump administration wants to phase out a program designed to forgive student loans for graduates who work in public service, but student loan experts are telling borrowers not to panic.

Right now, the U.S. Education Department says about half a million borrowers – including teachers, doctors and lawyers – participate in the public service loan forgiveness program, which allows them to make income-based repayments, and, after ten years, have their loans forgiven.

On Tuesday night, the Education Department's Chief Operating Office for federal student aid submitted his resignation, saying he was not able to lead the student-aid office because of the Department's leadership.

Betsy Mayotte, director of consumer outreach and compliance for the nonprofit American Student Assistance, is reminding concerned borrowers that whatever happens with Trump's proposal they'll likely be fine.

"I've been in the student loan industry for more years than I care to admit and I've never seen Congress retroactively remove a benefit from student loan borrowers," Mayotte told WGBH News.

Still, Mayotte predicts the program will be changed so that it's not as generous as it is now.

Mayotte says public service employees working toward loan forgiveness should continue to do so, and government agencies and non-profits should educate their employees about their potential eligibility.

Last year, a report by the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government's plans to help student loan borrowers lower their monthly payments based on their income could cost a whole lot more than the Education Department originally projected.

Earlier: Student Loan Forgiveness Will Cost More than $100 Billion

Trump’s budget also calls on the federal government to stop subsidizing the interest on student loans – a move that would make college less affordable for low-income graduates.

In a statement, American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad said these cutbacks would have a devastating effect on the country’s long-term economic growth.

“This budget would result in a dramatic reduction in college affordability and, if approved by Congress, put college out of reach for millions of students,” Corbett Broad said. “Deep cuts to student aid will have a modest impact on upper-income families, but it will crush the personal and economic aspirations of low-income and working-class Americans for whom enrolling in college is an opportunity for better jobs and a brighter economic future.”

NPR Ed: President Trump's Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education

confronting cost, increasing access and success

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