U.S. House bill threatens student loan forgiveness program for teachers

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx–chair of the Committee on Education, and the Workforce–speaks in favor of “PROSPER.”

Last year, Texas AFT and our local affiliates sponsored about a dozen Student Debt workshops across the state that offered participants information on how to reduce their student loan debt. One key component of the workshops was instruction on taking advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows for teachers and other government or nonprofit workers to clear a portion of the debt after a number of payments. Unfortunately, the program now has a target on it for cuts. Here’s the scoop and how you can take action on the issue from AFT President Randi Weingarten:

As a country, we have encouraged our children to strive for bright futures. We prod them to go to college, pursue apprenticeship programs, and otherwise climb the ladder of opportunity by seeking educational opportunities beyond high school. But all too often, they leave these endeavors saddled with overwhelming student loan debt.

For a decade, a federal program known as Public Service Loan Forgiveness has worked to ease that burden for Americans while also promoting service to our nation. In exchange for 10 years of working in our military, public schools, or civil service or nonprofit service organizations, qualified borrowers can have the balance of their debt forgiven after 10 years of making qualifying repayments. There are 32 million Americans currently eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and millions of Americans rely on it to help pay back the costs of their education.

At its core, the program represents the most basic values of higher education and service to America, and those values must be protected.

Unfortunately, some in the Republican majority of the House of Representatives have other ideas. While they call it the PROSPER (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform) Act, it is anything but, as it slashes many of the programs designed to help people afford an education and promote national service.

Write your members of Congress right now and urge them to oppose the misnamed PROSPER Act.

The bill also guts minimum quality standards meant to protect students from subpar colleges, and weakens protections for student loan borrowers against predatory for-profit institutions, big banks and even the federal agencies that loan them money. Instead of helping fulfill the promise of higher education, the PROSPER Act destroys it entirely, opening the floodgates for bad-actor corporations to fleece taxpayers and students.

And rather than making it easier for Americans to serve their country and communities, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx want to make it harder. They may talk about the heroism of public service, but they are proposing to make those public service careers impossible to pursue unless you are wealthy.

Congress ultimately has a responsibility to advance access to quality higher education, drive the costs down for students and families, and use taxpayer support for higher education to strengthen the American economy. If our lawmakers refuse to maintain current law that helps service members, teachers, nurses and other nonprofit workers pay off their college loans, they need to hear from you. And if they maintain this position, they should be voted out of office.

Write your members of Congress right now and urge them to oppose the PROSPER Act.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President