By Samantha Gregory, Leah Gibson, & Tayler Dye
The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s (ASHA) “Restore Graduate Student Loan Benefits” legislative brief advocates for graduate students to be eligible for subsidized loans. These types of loans do not accrue interest for the borrower to pay back. Graduate students should be eligible for subsidized loans because graduate students are independents who would qualify for, and benefit from, these loans. The academic responsibilities of full-time graduate education does not often allow for the time commitment of a full-time job, which is needed to pay for tuition and living costs.
ASHA’s “Reject Student Aid and Loan Forgiveness Changes” legislative brief advocates for the rejection of the 2018 education budget, because it does not include funding for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and is reducing the number of income-driven loan repayment plan options from five to one. PSLF forgives student debt after 10-years of working in a public service setting combined with 120 consecutive loan payments. Eliminating the PSLF program will remove incentive for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to work in schools and in at-risk school systems. There is currently a shortage of school-based SLPs, and removing an incentive to work in these locations will cause more professionals to take jobs in other, higher-paying areas like hospitals, long-term care, and private practice. PSLF does not forgive loans immediately, but after 120 consecutive payments. This means that many individuals are in fact paying back a large amount of their loans. Any interest that has been accrued may remain, but the federal government that gives out the loans is still being repaid large amounts of the original loan. The cost of PSLF is not as high as the long-term negative consequences of eliminating it.
Income-driven repayment plans allow for flexibility of payments. Reducing options will decrease the likelihood that individuals will be able to keep their monthly payments manageable, and increase the likelihood of defaulting. The combination of unsubsidized loans, elimination of PSLF, and reducing the flexibility of income-driven repayment plans, will inevitably put more strain and debt on graduate students pursuing professional degrees and careers. This may result in the discouragement of students to enter into graduate programs, and, in the long-term, reduce the number of professionals providing services and the amount of loan repayment.
Graduate Student Loans and Student Aid and Forgiveness Changes can be best advocated for by writing letters to the members of Congress who represent the writer. Other avenues for contacting members of Congress are phone calls and emails. Below readers will find a script from which individuals can read:
“I am a constituent in your federal district and I am calling to advocate for Subsidized Graduate Student Loans and for a rejection of the 2018 education budget proposal. The budget currently does not allow funds for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and reduces the number of income-driven repayment plans from five to one. I study/work in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and believe that these issues have a direct impact on the trajectory of my education and professional career. According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association:
Both audiologists and speech-language pathologists require a post-graduate degree in order to be licensed in most states. Eliminating eligibility for graduate students to obtain federal loans has significantly increased the cost of borrowing, and resulted in negative impact on students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in a variety of fields, including audiology and speech-language pathology. (Graduate Student Loans)
Demand for both audiology and speech-language pathology professionals is expected to increase in the future. An additional 4,300 audiologists will be needed to fill the demand between 2012 and 2022 - a 19% increase in job openings. Speech-language pathology ranked 13th out of the 20 large-growth occupations. (Student Aid and Loan Forgiveness Changes)
“Public Service Loan Forgiveness incentivizes SLPs to work in schools and at-risk school systems. Removing the incentive will cause more SLPs to take higher paying jobs in the medical setting, further aggravating the existing obstacle of lack of SLPs in schools across the nation. Reducing repayment plans will increase the likelihood of default. Finally, PSLF is only applicable after 120 consecutive loan payments, by which time most students are paying only accrued interest or have a small amount of the original loan left to be forgiven. The federal government is receiving most of the loan in repayments. Therefore, eliminating PSLF and repayment options will create relatively fewer savings at the cost of continued and worsening obstacles for students and debt.”
Our plan is to distribute information about the discussed legislative briefs and provide scripts for contacting legislators. Your Legislators can be located at www.govtrack.us/congress/members.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017). Index of key issues: Graduate student loans. Retrieved from: https://takeaction.asha.org/asha/Index
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017). Index of key issues: Student aid and loan forgiveness changes. Retrieved from: https://takeaction.asha.org/asha/Index