As the House considers whether to bring up legislation to reauthorize programs under the Higher Education Act, ABA President Hilarie Bass stressed the importance this month of preserving the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
H.R. 4508 − known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act – would make substantial changes to federal student loan programs, including the termination of PSLF.
In a June 12 letter to all members of the House, Bass said that when PSLF was established in 2007, the program was the solution to a serious problem facing public sector employers. She explained that as the cost increased for the education requirements for professional licensure, graduates became less able to accept positions in lower-paying public service jobs. PSLF provides loan forgiveness to qualified borrowers who have made 120 timely payments on direct loans while they are employed full-time in public service jobs.
Without PSLF, employers would be unable to fill positions serving the public such as legal aid attorneys, public defenders or prosecutors because of the staggering amount of student debt most new lawyers have when they graduate. The legal profession, she said, is on the front lines of addressing national problems like crime, the opioid crisis, and natural disasters, and helping military and veteran families access the programs and services to which they are entitled.
“Ending PSLF will remove the most effective recruitment and retention tool available to many rural communities and nonprofit organizations,” Bass wrote. She said there is no data to support ending PSLF and no plan to study the program’s effectiveness or what impact ending the program would have on the many communities that rely on it.
She urged the House members to oppose H.R. 4508 and emphasized that PSLF is more important now than ever and that ending the program would only hurt those employers, borrowers and the public it was meant to help.