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With Union’s Help, Crippling Student Loan Debt Can Be Forgiven
Posted On: Jul 193, 2022

The cost to attain a quality education is significant, as Local 1521 member Dr. Bettye Ford knows only too well. 

Ford, a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Southwest College, is looking forward to the day that she is free of her student loan debt. Her current total sits at $465,000. 

“I borrowed about half of that amount. The rest is predatory lending and interest,” said Ford. “The interest on my student loans is 6% and the interest on my house is 3%. Without the loan forgiveness programs and income-based programs, my payments would be something like $4,000 per month.”

With the help of Local 1521, the path to that zero balance has become clearer for Ford. Because of a 2021 settlement in the case of Weingarten vs. DeVos, Ford and other adjuncts in her situation are entitled to relief through the U.S. Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Local 1521 holds regularly-scheduled monthly student debt clinics explaining PSLF and how adjuncts can access it.  

The student debt clinics have become popular, with as many as 48 members attending. 

“I think we’re in the second wave right now,” said Dr. Jessica Saint-Paul, Adjunct Faculty Issues Committee Chair and lead Student Debt Clinic trainer. “After speaking with AFT, I’m finding out that more members are receiving letters and updates from Fed Loan servicing saying that their loans will be forgiven. But it’s still going to be a process.” We need members to apply for PSLF before the PSLF limited expansion waiver expires on October 31, 2022.  

Ford recently learned that 120 of the 153 payments she has made qualify under PSLF. It’s a step in the right direction. 

“Without the union’s petition for adjunct faculty for our time to qualify, I would have had a gap of a couple of years, so the union has been helpful with this,” said Ford. “I’ve been moved to the next phase which is waiting for my account to reflect a zero balance.”   

“Every step forward feels great,” she added. “The morning that I woke up to the message that 120 of my payments qualified, there was this moment of like ‘Hurry up and call your mom. Don’t wake the household screaming and yelling and jumping around.’”   

According to Saint-Paul, AFT is advocating for the U.S. Department of Education to adopt the 3.35 credit hour multiplier as the national standard for counting credit hours for PSLF. AFT is also advocating for the U.S. Department of Education to revise the definition of “full-time” for PSLF to simply mean 30 hours a week, which would mean that adjunct faculty who teach three 3-credit courses (nine credits total) at one institution could automatically be certified as full-time thereby making more faculty eligible to qualify for PSLF and have their federal student loans forgiven.

The U.S. Department of Education just released proposed regulations to improve the limited PSLF expansion waiver which includes changes to the definition for non-tenured faculty whose colleges need to calculate full-time employment

Saint-Paul encourages all Local 1521 members who have student loan debt to start the PSLF process now by submitting their employment certification forms from all qualified employers since October 1, 2007 before the PSLF limited expansion waivers ends on October 31, 2022 to see whether they qualify. 

“A lot of people will say, “I already did this,’ but they might have applied for PSLF before the October 6, 2021 announcement from the U.S. Department of Education,” said Saint-Paul. If you don’t apply or re-apply for PSLF, you will not have the opportunity to have all your student loans reviewed. Please do it now. It is worth getting your student loans forgiven!”

To learn more or to sign up for a student loan debt clinic, click here.

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