Many student don’t have parents who pay our way through college. We go through school scraping by to make ends meet and have a lot of debt by the time we’re finished. The value of our social work educations, of course, is worth more than any price tag; yet, we each pay a specific dollar amount. The good news is, with some of the resources available, that dollar amount could be less than you think.
Under the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, social workers who provide services in specific communities which are in need of professionals can qualify to have their student loans repaid. The application cycle is closed for 2012, but you can sign up to receive more information and updates on the next application cycle at: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USHHSHRSA/subscriber/new?topic_id=USHHSHRSA_68.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program discharges all remaining educational debt upon completion of 10 years of qualified full-time employment. Employment qualification is based upon the place of employment and includes non-profit employers which provide public services for individuals with disabilities, the elderly, public safety, school-based services, public health, and public interest law services. Employment with an agency or organization which is designated tax-exempt by the IRS (under Section 501(c)(3)) also qualifies. For additional information, including the Employment Certification Package, which allows you to track and receive confirmation of your qualifying employment, visit the U. S. Department of Education’s website: http://studentaid.ed/gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PSF/jsp.
There is also a program available which helps to lower your monthly payment and forgives part of your loan—the Income Based Repayment Plan (IBR). With this program, loan payments are 15% of monthly income for those who qualify. New legislation is always a possibility, as well. Changes to this program, for example, were included in a plan enacted by Congress in 2010, which has the IBR loan payment amount scheduled to decrease by 5% in the year 2014. Additionally, in October of 2011, President Obama asked that the plan, along with other changes to help reduce debt for students, be put into effect immediately. As of this writing, the IBR loan payment amount remains at 15% according to information on the U. S. Department of Education’s website. This example reflects the on-going process of change with legislation; which means it is important to stay informed, and is also one of the reasons advocating for better policy is important. Fortunately, NASW does on-going work in this area, promoting loan forgiveness for social workers!
by Heather Haro, BSW candidate at Eastern Michigan University