HEA Passes the House: Get Your Senator to Support Loan Forgiveness in HEA!

Thanks for your help! Your advocacy efforts worked to pass the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), also known as the Higher Education Act or “HEA”, out of the House in an overwhelming vote (354 to 58) on February 7. The bill would fully reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) for the first time since 1998 and includes loan forgiveness for national need occupations, clarifies appropriate financial aid professional/lender relationships, simplifies the financial aid application process, attempts to slow rising college costs, and creates a host of reporting requirements for higher education institutions.The loan forgiveness provisions in the House bill would directly benefit social workers by allowing a person with a degree in social work or a related field, and who is employed by a public or private child welfare agency, to have part of his or her college loans forgiven. For each year of work, $2,000 would be forgiven, up to a maximum of $10,000 over five years. The loan forgiveness covers 13 areas of national need, including qualified Head Start, child care and preschool teachers; some teachers in high-need fields; and some mental health professionals. The loan provisions would apply only after the law is passed, not for previous years worked, and would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

For HEA to ultimately pass into law, the House and Senate must approve a negotiated version of the bill and send it to the president to be signed. While the House version includes the loan forgiveness language, the Senate version (S. 1642), passed during the summer, does not. We need your help in getting the loan forgiveness provisions into the final bill.

Important note: We want to emphasize that the College Opportunity and Affordability Act is not the same as the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 (H.R. 2669) which provides loan forgiveness for social workers in public child or family service agencies, nonprofit, military, and other areas for eligible120 loan payments made after Oct 1, 2007.
http://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/updates/2007/092107.asp
That legislation was signed into law by the President in September. While similar in focus, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act is broader in scope,

Action Needed: The House and Senate will negotiate their versions of HEA in the near future so please call your Senator at (202) 224-3121 or write them and urge them to retain the House’s loan forgiveness provisions in the final version of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137).Let your Senator know that you are a constituent and social worker and you appreciate their support. Thanks again for your advocacy.

Nancy McFall Jean, NASW Lobbyist, Government Relations Department

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