A brief PSA: The future of Public Service Loan Forgiveness is dire.

The popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is on the chopping block.  Here’s what this means for the current and future state of American public service workers.

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The popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is on the chopping block.  Here’s what this means for the current and future state of American public service workers.

In the Trump Administration’s latest proposal to combine the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, they have also proposed eliminating the Public Service Loan program for new borrowers. The key word here is “new borrowers”. Theoretically, this means the change wouldn’t affect people already enrolled and making payments in the program, but would instead prevent any new people from enrolling once enacted.

If you are reading this and just about to enter undergraduate or graduate school to pursue a degree in public service, or you are about to graduate with a public service or non-for-profit related degree and are investigating repayment plans, this information is for you.

For some background, here is the basic philosophy behind the “Public Service Loan Forgiveness” (PSLF) program in its current state and how it works:

The federal government loans money to someone so they can pursue an education that will help launch them into a career in public service (i.e., government work, social services, non-profit work, education, etc.). Because the earning potential in these careers is modest, at best, the PSLF program is designed to create an incentive for people to take up these very much needed and valuable career paths by promising to forgive the balance of their student loan debt after ten (10) years of consistent payments.

Once one makes 120 consistent payments (10 years), and completes the appropriate documentation to show they have made qualifying payments towards their loans, one then applies for the debt forgiveness and their remaining principal and interest balance is wiped clean. There is a lot of paperwork and documenting of income and work history along the way to ensure eligibility, but the process has been streamlined over the last few years to make this annual process very easy.  It sounds like a lot to deal with, but it is totally worth the hassle in the long run, especially if you have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

Like many Americans, I have a lot of student loan debt. Like, a lot. But because of the type of work I do, I have been fortunate to qualify for this repayment program. However, it is very concerning to me that the PSLF program is on the chopping block for elimination in the FY19 federal budget, and could potentially discourage millions of other eager young Americans interested in a career in non-profit, public service work.

Social services and non-profits are what help hold communities together, and continually fill the voids left by existing (or non-existing) federal, state, and local government programs (i.e., public arts education, non-profit shelters and relief centers, etc., ). My organization alone reaches tens of thousands of local students in Arizona, and provides them with access to arts education activities, many of which have been reduced or eliminated in their schools.

Non-profit and public service work is invaluable to the health of our communities. And as we see an ever more present need for people to enter these fields of service to meet the demands of their communities, our federal government is proposing enacting policies that will only discourage and create disincentives for doing so.

If you think you might currently be eligible for the PSLF program, will be eligible for it upon graduation, or are just genuinely concerned about its future, here are some things you can do right now:

  • Call or write your congressman and senator, and express your support for continuing this program in its current form.  If you don’t know who these people are, you can easily find out here.

 

  • After you contact these people, and you get a sense of where they stand on the issue, VOTE for them (or against) them, depending on your inclination, in the next primary and general election.  To find out when your state’s next primary election is (hint: they’re all happening right now or very soon), go here.  The next general election for Congress is November 6, 2018.  Mark your calendars.

 

  • Continue to read and follow the news around this issue.  Set Google alerts for “PSLF” and “Public Service Loan Forgiveness”.  Staying current and informed is the only way to arm oneself with the information necessary to know how to move forward.

For further reading on this topic, here is a great post about the ten most common mistakes people make in relation to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

A plan for smartphone addiction

Just published a piece today on Medium.com, which is a great new platform for long-form writers to share their ideas.

You can read the piece here, which is an update and further development of an idea I posted about back in 2016 here on this blog.

Cheers.

#CoffeeTalk

Some thoughts on coffee…

Coffee.  So much is in a word.  The way it punctuates the day. The way it can act as both an invitation to social interaction, and a buffer against it. Its fascinating and varied history. How it has become one of the most ubiquitous, conspicuous consumption items of choice for middle class Americans.  Its ability to give people a sense of personal identity (Triple non-fat dry cappuccino anyone?!)

We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup…You don’t even really need a place. But you feel like you’re doing something. That is what coffee is. And that is one of the geniuses of the new coffee culture. – Jerry Seinfeld

I write this while sitting among the caffeinated masses in a popular local spot.  Everyone here who’s not chatting loudly about their drunken escapades from the previous night is immersed in their laptops and earbuds with looks of concentration (such that I also probably have right now) that would give the impression that one is writing the next great American novel, or at the very least curing cancer.  When in reality, we’re all just working on crafting the perfect Instagram caption and/or trying to devise a witty hashtag.

#Coffeeshopshaveawayofimbuingimportancetoeventhemostuninportantofactions.

Office civilization could not be feasible without the hard take-offs and landings effected by coffee and alcohol.” – Alain de Botton

My day is punctuated by when I am having, have had, or will have coffee. It is my time stamp, and one of the key indicators that time is indeed moving along. Take my most typical day for example: Coffee upon waking up (7am). Coffee when I get to work (9am).  Pre-lunch coffee (11am), Post-lunch coffee (2pm). Occasional bank lobby coffee (5pm), post dinner coffee (8pm). It’s how I know whether I’m coming or going.

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” – Dave Barry

The Viennese coffee culture has existed for centuries, but until Starbucks made headway in the American suburbs, the idea of “going for coffee” was a primarily urban, city dweller activity. Before Starbucks became ubiquitous, coffee for most people meant a black, watery substance that served as a vehicle for a morning pick-me-up.  Taste, quality, and variety were certainly not a concern.  Now, soccer moms and yuppies alike partake in double espresso macchiatos and dry cappuccinos.  However, the elevation to the mainstream that Starbucks has allowed for in American coffee culture has only created a backlash of sorts among the original, pre-populist, coffee aficionados.  Thus the rise of the “non corporate” coffee culture. It is antithesis of and reaction to the demystification of coffee perpetrated on the populace by a green and white Siren.

“Just the other day, I was in my neighborhood Starbucks, waiting for the post office to open. I was enjoying a chocolatey cafe mocha when it occurred to me that to drink a mocha is to gulp down the entire history of the New World. From the Spanish exportation of Aztec cacao, and the Dutch invention of the chemical process for making cocoa, on down to the capitalist empire of Hershey, PA, and the lifestyle marketing of Seattle’s Starbucks, the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.” – Sarah Vowell

Have you ever noticed that every TV talk show has coffee cups present? It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. I’ve always wondered whether it’s actually coffee that is in there, or something else.  But then again, what’s the point of using a coffee mug if you’re just going to put water or juice in it?  Why not just a plain glass? Perhaps the coffee mug elicits more candid responses from talk show guests…getting back to that whole idea of coffee-as-social-lubricant, thing.

“Do you know how helpless you feel if you have a full cup of coffee in your hand and you start to sneeze? ” – Jean Kerr

Why does my bank want me to have coffee?  I see the free coffee stand to my right and think, “I know it’s 5pm and I’m heading home, but then again, this may take a while…The struggle is real.

Perhaps the bank coffee is a primer, a subliminal message of sorts, that coffee and banking go hand in hand.  It would make sense, since every bank commercial seems to feature coffee as an essential part of the “at home banking” process: a cozy atmosphere (perfectly fitting), comfortable clothes, laptop – all of the accoutrement one needs. The actors in the commercials are poised for banking success. Achievement with a capital “A” is imminent. Coffee, no doubt, has played a key role in this. The subtlety is not lost on me. And yet, I still pour myself a quick cup, adding to my already caffeine addled brain, and fill out my deposit slips.

The Importance of Sundays

“The secular pleasure of Sunday morning isn’t simply one of relaxation and freedom; it’s also linked to a feeling (which might not always be very explicit) that one has the opportunity to reengage with the wider horizons of one’s life.”

The above quote from The Book of Life site is a poignant reminder of why Sundays often have a feeling of secular sacredness, and why doing anything other than what we wish to choose on that day, more than any other day, feels like such a violation of that which is and should be wholly ours. Continue reading “The Importance of Sundays”

Thoughts in a park.

Hypothesis:

The opportunities for observation that present themselves to us during our various moments of idleness throughout the day (waiting in traffic, in line at the grocery store, for the water to boil), are often squandered by immediately turning to our devices for the latest digital updates.  We are a culture averse to idleness and simply observing the world us.  As soon as the world stops requiring anything of us, we immediately move from the real to the digital.  By doing this, we fail to see the world as it is.  Waiting in an idle state is the perfect opportunity for this. Continue reading “Thoughts in a park.”

What I learned from leaving Facebook.

I have not been on Facebook now since December 2015. I wrote about the reasons why I was leaving it in an earlier post. I would say there are both upsides and downsides to not having Facebook. However, the good far outweighs the bad.

Here are some general observations since leaving the site: Continue reading “What I learned from leaving Facebook.”

Allowing Boredom in Our Lives

Boredom has a long cultural history and an adaptive function in human life — it serves a vital creative purpose and protects us by helping us tolerate open-endedness; in childhood, it becomes the wellspring of imaginative play. And yet we live in a culture that seems obsessed with eradicating boredom, as if it were Ebola or global poverty, and replacing it with a peculiar modern form of active idleness oozing from our glowing screens.

The above quote by Maria Popova comes from a post she wrote about Kierkegaard’s writings on boredom, and gets at the crux of the matter for what seems to be one ailment of the modern condition of western civilization.

She coins a term called “active idleness” that is quite fitting to the situation. We are more disconnected from nature than ever before, and ironically, more disconnected from ourselves and one another. We stare at screens all day with the hope of connecting. Meanwhile, there are those all around us, in the flesh, that we choose not to connect with given the opportunity.   Continue reading “Allowing Boredom in Our Lives”

Making Sense of Memories

We are our memory,
we are that chimerical museum of shifting shapes,
that pile of broken mirrors.

(verse from Jorge Luis Borges’s 1969 poem “Cambridge”)

It’s interesting how as time goes on, memories tend to coalesce around a specific narrative. Events come and go, and yet one’s mind eventually settles around an internally agreed truth of what “is” and “isn’t”. Continue reading “Making Sense of Memories”

30 Days of Writing Complete. What now?!

It’s been a number of days now since I’ve written anything. Having completed the 30 for 30 Challenge, I’ve taken a physical (but hardly mental) break from writing to clear my head and see where I want to take things next.

In the meantime, I have been reading and listening a lot to Jeff Goins.  Jeff is an entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping other people find their writing voice, and teaching what it takes to build a platform and audience. I discovered Jeff’s work in the midst of my writing challenge, and probably would have approached things differently had I encountered his advice first.

Here is some of what I’ve learned, and what i hope to apply to this blog going forward. Continue reading “30 Days of Writing Complete. What now?!”

Themes for Longform Writers

 

Does anyone have experience using any of these themes? I am particularly interested in their functionality and how conducive they are for long form writing. Decisions, decisions!!

The WordPress.com Blog

Many of the themes in our Theme Showcase are great for writing and reading longer articles and stories, from our classic default themes — including Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Twelve — to popular personal blogging themes like Ryu and Manifest

Last week, we shared ten of our favorite longreads across WordPress, and we hope you’ve taken some time to sit back and savor these longer pieces. Below, we’ve gathered some themes that work well with longform writing and offer a clean, enjoyable experience for your readers.

Syntax

On Otium, Yale PhD student Sarah Constantin writes about mathematics, cognitive science, philosophy, and more. Aside from a colorful graphic header image, Sarah keeps her blog simple. You can click on the button on the left to open the menu and access her About page, but the site is minimal, which keeps the focus on her prose.

On Syntax, you’ll…

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