Monday, May 13, 2019

Public Service Loan Forgiveness program not actually geared toward people in low-paying fields

I previously jotted down some thoughts about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program planning to blog about it, but last week a story broke that the program has a lot more problems than I thought. (WSJ seems to have the best coverage; google the topic if you're out of free WSJ articles and you'll find other coverage.)

Still, the thing that stuck out to me is that the program requires employment 30+ hours per week for 10 years (120 payments -- doesn't have to be consecutive) at a qualifying nonprofit institution. There is no way to work part-time and have this prorated to complete the program over a longer period of time. This means that people who work part-time due to parenting, disability, or other reasons just can't do the program.

It also relies on an employment model that shows the people who created the program aren't actually familiar with nonprofits. Many human services, education, and arts jobs pay "per hour" based on the actual face-to-face time spent with a student/client/whoever, with a pay rate that is meant to cover the hours spent preparing, scheduling, traveling, documenting and so forth. My friends who are arts educators at community organizations make an annual lower-middle-class salary based on working 20-25 hours per week. They are of course actually working for closer to 30-50, but their pay is based on the hours they are physically teaching a lesson. The pay stubs and forms they would submit to verify their employment would say they work 22 hours a week, which would mean they wouldn't be considered full-time employees according to this program. My friends who are counselors are paid based on a similar model, paid for each client with pay stubs that say they have about 22 hours.

This would be where I would usually suggest some ways of reforming the program, but based on the articles stating that most of the people who appear to qualify aren't actually having their loans discharged, as well as talk that the orange guy and his buddies are going to cut all these programs anyway, I think I'll just suggest that higher education should be free or close to free like it is in most civilized countries.

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