- Four Democrats introduced a bill to make adjunct professors eligible for student loan forgiveness.
- The current Public Service Loan Forgiveness program only applies to full-time public servants – not adjuncts.
- And it rejects 98% of applicants, warranting reform.
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The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives the student debt of public servants after 120 qualifying payments. But while full-time teachers qualify for this relief, adjunct professors don’t.
Four Democrats want to change that.
On Thursday, Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, along with Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, introduced the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, which would make adjunct professors eligible to participate in PSLF.
Under current law, a public service job is characterized as full-time work, or a minimum weekly average of 30 hours of work, but adjunct professors who often work at several schools, and have multiple jobs, have difficulties meeting those requirements.
“Student loan debt is a crushing burden for millions of Americans, and, for adjunct faculty, that reality combined with meager wages, limited job security, and limited access to health care and other benefits, means simply doing their job is a challenging undertaking,” Hirono said in a statement. “This legislation makes a simple change to allow adjunct faculty to access the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which will provide them with real financial relief.”
According to the press release, adjunct faculty are paid on average $US3,894 ($AU5,276) per class taught, with the annual income of the lowest-paid adjuncts near the minimum wage, and given that most of them have advanced degrees, they also bear the burden of the $US1.7 ($AU2) trillion student debt crisis.
While the introduction of this bill might be a hopeful sign for adjunct faculty with student debt, PSLF itself has failed to give forgiveness to the borrowers who currently qualify for the program. Insider reported last month that since President Joe Biden took office, the program is still rejecting 98% of its applicants.
Biden campaigned on reforming the program as a result of its high denial rate under President Donald Trump, and the Education Department’s regulatory agenda including reforming the program, but actually implementing changes could take at least a year.
That’s why 56 Democrats sent a letter to Biden in May urging him to quickly reform the program to give public servants the student-debt relief they deserve.
Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, who signed the letter, wrote on Twitter: “We must ensure that America’s teachers, social workers, public defenders, service members and community health care workers – along with many other public servants – receive the student loan forgiveness they have earned.”