Under the proposal, more non-tenured faculty members would be eligible for loan forgiveness. Here’s how.

More contingent faculty members would be eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven under the Biden administration’s proposed changes to the civil service loan forgiveness program. The federal program, which provides student loan forgiveness to public service employees who have made loan repayments for at least 10 years, has been widely criticized as overly complex and poorly administered, with very few borrowers managing to make cancel their debt.

If approved, a change would allow contingent faculty members — part-time and full-time instructors not on the tenure track, including adjuncts — to qualify for the program by working at least 30 hours per week for qualified employers, including public and nonprofit colleges. Currently, employers may define full-time work differently; the proposed change would not affect the definitions of employers for purposes other than the Loan Forgiveness Program.

Another proposed change is intended to help the many contingent faculty members who are paid based on the number of credits they teach. Under this change, instructors could convert credit hours taught to total hours worked by multiplying the number of credit hours by 3.35; the change would recognize that one hour of classroom instruction requires additional work, such as prep time, office hours, meetings, and training.

“This is really going to help a lot of families,” said Winston Berkman-Breen, deputy director of advocacy and policy advice at the Student Borrower Protection Center, a national nonprofit group focused on easing the burden of loan debt. student.

A report published this year by the American Federation of Teachers, based on a survey conducted in 2020, painted a grim picture of the lives of the growing number of contingent faculty members nationwide. A quarter of respondents said they made less than $25,000 a year, and only one in five said they could comfortably cover basic monthly expenses. Almost half said they struggled with job security, saying they didn’t know until a month before the start of a school year if they would get a teaching job. According to the AFT, 75% of faculty members are not eligible for tenure and 47% hold part-time positions.

Proposed changes to the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program echo state laws in California, Oregonand Washington that determine how faculty members can calculate total hours worked based on classroom teaching hours. A similar bill was passed New Yorkthe Legislative Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Student loans are one of the real burdens of auxiliary living, auxiliary work, which is inherently underpaid work and not recognized as full-time work for the purposes of job security or social advantages.

Changes to reflect the time faculty members spend working outside the classroom would be “incredibly significant,” said Rosa Squillacote, vice president for part-time employees at the Professional Staff Congress, the union faculty and staff from the City University of New York. . “Anecdotally, student loans are one of the real burdens of auxiliary living, auxiliary work, which is inherently underpaid work and not recognized as full-time work for the purposes of job security or benefits,” she said.

Squillacote, who worked at CUNY’s Hunter College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice for 10 years, teaching full-time about half that time, said qualifying for the loan forgiveness program would give him a realistic way to repay the $200,000 in student loans she accumulated while attending law school. “This relief, in my view, doesn’t go far enough, but it really needs intervention or support for a whole generation of people who have lived in this financially precarious life literally forever,” Squillacote said.

Daniel A. Collier, assistant professor of higher education and adult education at the University of Memphis, said he was supportive of the proposed changes, which he said would help clarify and simplify the curriculum. loan relief. But he also questioned whether the changes might encourage administrators “to use deputies more and not replenish the lines leading to tenure.”

“If we see the assistant pool opening up,” Collier asked, “why should an administrator replenish teaching roles with tenure-track professors, which cost a lot more money?”

Election implications

In addition to these changes to the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Scheme, the Department of Education has proposed allowing more types of payments as well as certain types of deferments and forbearances to qualify for the scheme. . The ministry has also proposed creating a formal reconsideration process for borrowers whose applications are denied.

The changes are among several that the Biden administration unveiled this month to pave the way for loan forgiveness for borrowers in a number of different categories. The department is in the midst of a 30-day comment period on the proposals and expects to release the final rules this fall that would take effect next July.

Under President Biden, the department has taken a targeted approach to expanding student loan forgiveness. So far, he has approved the cancellation of approximately $26 billion in federal student loan debt for more than 1.3 million borrowers, including borrowers who attended the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges and those with permanent status. disabled.

But during the 2020 election campaign, Biden pledged to tackle student loan forgiveness more broadly, pledging to to cancel at least $10,000 in debt for each federal student loan borrower and promising to to forgive undergraduate tuition debt incurred at public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions for those earning up to $125,000 per year. Right-wing critics have argued that universal loan forgiveness would be unfair to those who have not attended college, taken out student loans or have already repaid them. Some on the left argued either that universal loan forgiveness wouldn’t focus on helping those who need help the most, or that a $10,000 forgiveness wouldn’t go far enough. Some have expressed concerns that canceling student debt could worsen inflation.

Meanwhile, those with federal student loans are anxiously awaiting a decision on whether payments, which have been suspended since the start of the pandemic, will resume on September 1, as scheduled, or whether the pause can be extended to new. Furthermore previous The expansion of the civil service loan forgiveness program is due to expire on October 31. With both dates falling so close to the midterm elections, any decision on student debt will be closely watched for its political impact.

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