By Mallory Newsome, Savannah Rice, & Samantha Mason
What are we advocating for?
We are asking that our congressmen reject proposals by the Trump Administration that would make graduate or doctoral level education more expensive and difficult to pay back. This includes supporting legislation that would allow graduate and doctoral level students to take out federal direct unsubsidized loans, as well as rejecting proposals that eradicate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
What does that mean?
To become a licensed speech-language pathologist or audiologist, education beyond the undergraduate level is required. An additional 2-4 years of education is required, depending on the chose field. Advanced education increases the amount of student loans to be paid back after graduation.
Advocacy for the prevention of changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is needed. It would also be beneficial towards students in the future to restore graduate student loan benefits by allowing graduate and doctoral level students to take out direct federal subsidized loans instead of forcing them to take unsubsidized loans with a much higher interest rate. Many students have been negatively impacted from graduate loans, especially in the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology.
Within President Trump’s budget request for the 2018 fiscal year, many affordable plans for graduate students to repay college debt would be eradicated. These changes made to the budget would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, established by George W. Bush in 2007. In this program, loan forgiveness depends on work and payment stipulations.
Ten years of providing treatment in a non-profit public setting and completing 120 consecutive payments on the loans will be exchanged for forgiveness of the remainder of the loans. Instead, these changes would require graduate students to adopt repayment plans much like traditional mortgage loan systems. The repayment system would extend from 10 years to 30 years. If these changes are passed, all graduate students with loans originating post October 1, 2017 will no longer be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It is important to reject the proposals by the Trump Administration to allow graduate education to be easier to pay back. If the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is taken away, students would not have the ability for their loans to be forgiven after 10 years. Graduate or doctoral students deserve the opportunity to be employed through a non-profit organization for 10 years while paying 120 consecutive payments on student debt before loans are forgiven.
Why is this important?
Both speech-language pathology and audiology are expected to increase in demand in the coming years, so the number of students taking out graduate level loans will also increase. Audiology job openings are expected to increase by 34% and speech-language pathology job openings are expected to increase by 19%. In addition, as a professional level occupation, speech-language pathology is ranked 13th out of the 20 large-growth occupations that require a master’s, doctoral or professional degree to enter the field. People pursuing higher levels of education do not deserve to be punished for choosing a career path that requires a master’s degree, or higher, at job entry. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists pursue these careers to make a difference in people’s lives, not to have to pay back high sums of interest, as well as large amounts of loans. This can be prevented by making individuals seeking professional level education eligible for graduate student loan benefits, as well as keeping the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs available for use.
What can you do to help?
To prevent punishing individuals for seeking professional level education, contact your state congressmen to advocate for the rejection of the Trump Administration’s 2018 budget request, which will eradicate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, in turn inhibiting individuals from getting their loans forgiven after October 1st, 2017. It would also benefit individuals pursuing professional level education to advocate for your state congressmen to support the restoration of graduate student loan benefits.