The ABA’s first social media lobbying campaign is drawing thousands of individuals into the effort to preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which benefits those who work in government and the non-profit sector, including lawyers who have chosen public service as a career.
The ABA campaign is in response to recent proposals to cap or eliminate PSLF, which was established in 2007 to provide forgiveness of remaining federal student loan debt after 10 years of eligible full-time employment in public service and payment of 120 qualifying monthly payments. The first group of public service workers will be eligible for forgiveness in 2017.
Changes in the program, which might also be proposed as part of the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization, would directly impact the legal community, where the greatest obstacle in recruiting and retaining lawyers for public-sector positions has been the substantial student debt that borrowers incur to pursue a law decree. The average student debt accumulated by law students for undergraduate study and law school is more than $100,000. In addition, the ABA emphasizes that the positions that lawyers fulfill in the public service arena – including prosecutors, public defenders and legal aid attorneys − cannot be done by anyone else.
The ABA campaign, launched this summer, urges individuals to communicate their support for the program through various forms of social media and to tell their own PSLF stories through videos posted on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or Instragram. They are encouraged to tag their senators as they share why the program matters to them and those they serve and the difference the program has made in their communities.
The campaign, less than two months in, has already garnered thousands of social media engagements, including over a thousand unique tweets, hundreds of stories posted on Facebook, and dozens of videos and photos on various social media platforms. The campaign is ongoing and is likely to widen as long as proposed cuts or repeal of the program remain on the table.