Tag Archives: PSLF

Today’s Indivisible Action is on my Hobby Horse

I’ve been concerned about Public Service Loan Forgiveness for a while. Since October 2017 when the first folks became eligible for forgiveness but 1 in 3 applications were denied, partly because the guidelines were unclear and there was no way to check ahead of time if you were doing things right to qualify.

You must do at least three things right: have the right sort of Federal student loans; be in the right sort of income-driven repayment plan; be in qualifying employment before you start making your on-time payments for ten years. I have my vested interest in this. I’ve been working in the public interest, with my loans in an income-based repayment plan, making my monthly payment on time, for about six years. I’m a little over halfway there. Spouse and I will still both be middle-aged, just in our 50’s, though a bit older than someone who graduated law school in their 20’s when the program already existed.

Public service loan forgiveness is not an unearned benefit. It’s not a gift. Public service loan forgiveness is an investment in our communities. When a person spends years and tens of thousands of dollars on their own education in order to work in the public interest–as a nurse, a teacher, a public defender, a civil servant, a fireman–they have incurred debt and restricted their family’s income potential in order to serve all of us, in order to make our cities, our towns, our neighborhoods healthy and functional for everyone.

As a society, we owe it to our public service professionals to support their investment in us. Please take a few minutes to call your member of the House of Representatives and tell them you hope they’ll protect Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a George Bush era reform which passed with over-whelming bi-partisan support (The House of Representatives approved the law 292 to 97; the Senate vote was 79 to 12).

Action 2: Tell Your Rep. to Protect Federal Financial Aid and Education Oversight

Late last year, while reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved the PROSPER Act (H.R.4508). This harmful bill decreases federal financial aid and rolls back regulations that protect students from predatory for-profit colleges and trade schools.

The PROSPER Act ends three important financial aid programs:

  1. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
  2. Subsidized student loans that allow low income students to avoid interest payments while in school
  3. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

It also increases minimum loan repayments, eliminates debt forgiveness horizons, and requires a minimum monthly payment even for borrowers near and below the poverty line. Modeling by the Center for American Progress shows that these changes may raise loan repayments for low income students by tens of thousands of dollars and increase the time they are repaying loans by decades. In addition, the PROSPER Act eliminates key safeguards that protect students, including the “90/10 rule” (which bars for-profit colleges from getting more than 90% of their revenue from federal aid), as well as the gainful employment regulation (which prevents career training programs with poor educational outcomes from receiving federal money). The bill also weakens regulatory power by removing states’ power to oversee online schools, and it hinders state efforts to hold student loan providers accountable.

By making it harder for students to afford higher education, the PROSPER Act prioritizes private industry interests while increasing the burden on Americans.

Script: Hello, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from {ZIP CODE} and member of Indivisible Chicago.

I am calling to ask {PERSON} to oppose the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508) because this bill makes it harder for students to afford higher education and eliminates regulations that protect students from predatory for-profit schools.

Thank you for your hard work answering the phones.

[NOTE: If leaving a voicemail please leave your full street address to ensure you call is tallied.]


My Letter to Senators Durbin & Duckworth & Rep Quigley

Please speak out in support of public service loan forgiveness which is now threatened by the proposed budget and by the ill-advised agenda of Betsy DeVos. The people who will be eligible for forgiveness will dedicate a minimum of ten years to a public service career, making sacrifices in income and retirement savings in order to serve and improve our communities. Loan forgiveness not only compensates them for the work on our behalf, but also demonstrates that our society values the commitment they make to our communities. PSLF also says to the teachers, public defenders, social workers and other public interest professionals working in chronically underfunded and overburdened–but essential–services that we, as a society, value their work and demonstrates that can support our communities by supporting their work.

Gutting PSLF and income-based/income-driven repayment programs will drain talent and skilled professionals out of civic and community institutions, particularly in cities with a high concentration nonprofits and high cost of living. This will diminish the quality of these institutions and harm our communities. Investment in public and public interest organization–through support of their skilled professionals–pays off by strengthening our communities.

I work at a four-person 501(c)(3) court reform organization, as an attorney. The organization cannot offer a retirement plan. Even with the ACA, it is unable to afford platinum health insurance plans and no dental or vision plans. PSLF and income-based repayment are the only reason I am able to save for retirement on my own. I have invested in myself and relied upon the promise of loan forgiveness in choosing a career that allows me to invest in my city. Please tell me you will stand up for me and others who have done the same.

This administration and the GOP generally. is pounding a steady drumbeat of attacks against our public institutions and our social safety net and our community duty to another. It is up to you to push back.

I will be forwarding it to: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Chair: Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Senate Ranking Member Patty Murray ([[D]]-WASHINGTON)
 and House committee on Education & Workforce Chair: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC); Ranking Member Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott ([[D]]-VA)

If you have ever benefited from a public school, or a doctor in a rural clinic, or appreciate having social workers or public defenders or prosecutors, please consider calling, emailing or writing in defense of public service loan forgiveness and the attendant income-based or income-dependent repayment plans.

As an acquaintance noted: These programs are explicitly not need-based, they are income-based. Someone earning $40K in San Francisco is not in the same situation as someone earning $40K in Des Moines. There are many differences in how much access people making the same salary have to parental funds or property. These situational differences are also ignored by the income-based repayment programs, because the primary purpose of these programs is not to meet financial needs. Their purpose is to incentivize qualified people to take socially-useful but low-paying jobs. This incentive applies just as much to someone with a wealthy spouse or parents as to someone who is solely dependent on their individual salary.

As I have now said across many platforms: Increasingly, it feels this administration simply *will not rest* until anything and everything that might help a human being, affirm the value of a human being, or even vaguely acknowledge the worth of any given human being is wiped from all consideration in governance and public policy. That is not the world I want to live in; that is not a good society to leave behind us.

Is There a Point to this Cruelty? by Charles P. Pierce in Esquire.

Betsy DeVos wants to Kill a Major Student Loan Forgiveness Program by Jordan Weissman at Slate

Billionaire Betsy DeVos wants to scrap student debt forgiveness. Surprised? by Jamie Peck at the Guardian

Trump May End Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness by Zack Friedman at Forbes

PSLF, IBR, GULC, CAFFJ & Justice is the End

dc1109tagalxx_lgAs I’ve said before: As long as each of us lives within society, each of us is required to give to it from whatever personal abundance you have. I also recently tweeted that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is my retirement account.

A reporter saw my tweet and asked me if I would talk to her a little about my experiences and opinions of the income-based repayment system and the public service loan forgiveness program. She said it’s clear that student loan debt remains out of control, but she’s trying to figure out how these programs change the landscape. I am happy to talk about it because these programs are life-changing and I am afraid they will be ripped out from under those of us who are depending on their rewards, who are basing career choices on their promise. I need these programs to stay above water and without them, I can never retire.

I told her that PSLF was necessary not simply because it lets me afford my job financially but also because it helps me afford my job emotionally. I chose this work–I always wanted to do public interest lawyering. But this work is hard. It’s tiring, it’s thankless and it’s exhausting. We can’t always show immediate or obvious benefits from our work, either–especially people like me, who work in systemic reform rather than direct services.

It’s also unstable work–funding is always at risk. We’re constantly begging for money from colleagues, friends and people whose annual bonuses are the size of our salaries. That’s depressing. It marginalizes your work and marginalizes you and your colleagues who do the same work.

So loan forgiveness as a reward for public interest work is huge. Receiving a tangible benefit from dedicating a good chunk (10 years) of your career to service changes everything. Having this tiny acknowledgement from the government shows that the work we do is valuable and meaningful. Having this small validation that I am important for the good of my community truly matters. Investment from society in public service careers makes me feel that my investment in society is mirrored.

The law library at the alma says “Law is but the means; Justice is the end”. I was moved by the concept then and I still believe in both, all evidence to the contrary. But we don’t get to justice without investment. Investment in society requires more than the personal effort, emotional or financial sacrifice of motivated professionals and the generosity of small (or large) donors. It requires government participation.


Tangentially, the Marshall Project (which is excellent modern reporting) has a feature on a lawyer in Missouri who defends people in capital cases and who keeps seeing her clients executed. This system is brutalizing this woman, in addition to brutalizing defendants.

The people I know who are most passionate about capital defense and individual justice have this ungodly mixture of optimism, deep cynicism, lethargy and passion. Their coping mechanisms are all specifically very different but often seem to take on magical thinking components, especially those with very hopeless tasks at hand. We owe a duty to defense attorneys to fund them adequately and support them systemically.