The House and Senate have both passed higher education student loan bills that include language on loan forgiveness for child welfare workers. There is an important difference between these two bills in the loan forgiveness section. Both bills provide long term loan forgiveness for public service employees after 10 years of work. The House bill (H.R. 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007), provides loan forgiveness of $1,000 per year up to $5,000 (five years) if a person works in one of eight areas of national need, including public and private child welfare workers. This provision in the House bill is in addition to a provision that provides loan forgiveness to an individual that has been employed in public service for 10 years.The Senate bill only provides the 10-year provision, not the additional $5,000 loan forgiveness for child welfare workers found in the House bill and is limited to social workers in public service. While the 10 year loan provision will help some areas of workforce need, the limitations around public agencies will impact child welfare since many of the services in child welfare, as well as child care, are provided by non-profits and charitable agencies. Congressional staff are working right now to resolve the differences between the two versions. Call right away while Congress is at home and tell them to keep the House section in any final agreement!
Let them know that loan forgiveness is an important step in addressing the shortage of child welfare workers. Repayment is particularly challenging for social workers whose salaries continue to be among the lowest for professionals in general, and for those with master’s level education, in particular. In 2001, 22 percent of social workers earned under $30,000 and 20 percent earned between $30,000 and $39,999. The median salary for social workers with two to four years experience was $35,600. A recent survey by the Council on Social Work Education found that the average loan debt of social work students graduating in 2004 with a master’s degree in social work was $26,777. Those with bachelor’s degrees in social work faced repayment of $18,609 in loans and those with doctoral degrees in social work were $32,841 in debt.
The social work workforce issue must be addressed because we know that a quality child welfare workforce is essential to promoting good outcomes for children in the child welfare system. No issue has as great effect on the child welfare system’s capacity to serve at-risk and vulnerable children and families than the shortage of competent, stable workforce.
Please call your member with the following message: “As a member of your constituency and as a member of the National Association of Social Workers, we urge you to keep the House provision on loan forgiveness (Section 131) that is in the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 (HR 2669), in the final conference report. The country’s social services delivery system depends on social workers who are willing and able to commit to long-term service in the public and private sectors. However, too many social work graduates are unable to pursue human service careers due to the overwhelming burden of their student loan debts. The provision of loan forgiveness through the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 would be a very important step in addressing these workforce issues. Thank you.”
Call your Representative and Senator right away while they are at home by contacting the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-828-0498 and ask for the Washington, D.C. office to get their local number