Bill would offer adjuncts some relief on college loans

A bill before Congress would make adjunct faculty members eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which aims to reduce the burden of student debt for college graduates who take qualifying jobs in government and in the nonprofit sector.

“Adjunct faculty members are typically paid extremely low wages and rarely have access to benefits such as health insurance. The MTA welcomes any relief that can be provided to these educators who serve a vital role in the public higher education system,” said MTA president Barbara Madeloni.

The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2015, filed by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and currently before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, expands the definition of public-service employment.

To qualify for the loan forgiveness program currently, a person needs to work a minimum weekly average of 30 hours in a public service job in order to have public higher education loans forgiven after 10 years. The Durbin bill would allow adjunct instructors who teach at least one course at a qualifying college or university to have loan payments made during the time of teaching count toward the loan forgiveness program.

Nationally, more than half of all higher education faculty members work on a contingent basis. Contingent faculty members, like their tenure-track peers, typically have advanced degrees. Almost 75 percent of all graduate-degree recipients have average student loan debt of $61,000. The annual earnings of adjunct faculty members, who make an average $2,000 to $3,000 per course, typically hover around the annual income of minimum-wage workers.

The National Education Association and Service Employees International Union support the loan fairness act, which is expected to come up for consideration in the fall.

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