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.

Day 19 – What Every Politician is the Master of…

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge)

At the start of every political election year, I like to remind myself that most of what I am about to hear coming out of the mouths of political candidates is a very pure and refined form of bullshit. Bullshit is a term that has been in the lexicon for quite some time, and it is a word that is thrown around quite haphazardly. “Don’t bullshit me!”, we often exclaim. But what is bullshit, really?

To remind myself of the meaning of this word, and in a biannual effort to cope with the piles of it heaped upon my years every election year, it has become a tradition of mine during this time to read a very short, and poignant book called On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt.  This taut, well argued little book, wastes no words in getting at the crux of the matter, all while maintaining a tinge of humor. Continue reading “Day 19 – What Every Politician is the Master of…”

Day 14 – Five Books that Will Make you an Informed Citizen

There are books that change our lives and our world views, and then there are books that are equally great, but in a different way. There are books that are almost like text books, but text books you actually want to read. Their information is not only valuable to a functioning society, but to the continuation and furthering of knowledge for every person. Our mainstream media is failing us today as the Fourth Estate, intended to inform the public and help make for an educated electorate.  A healthy democracy is not possible otherwise.

These five books make up where the media fails in this area: Continue reading “Day 14 – Five Books that Will Make you an Informed Citizen”

The Unknown Known: Is there a takeaway?

Tonight, I saw the recently released documentary about Donald Rumsfeld.  It was about his handling of the Iraq War, and an overarching perspective of the decisions he has made throughout his political career….I think.  The film is called “The Unknown Known“, and it was directed and written by Errol Morris.  I say ,”I think” that is what I saw, because throughout the entire 103 minutes of interviews and footage (all of it entirely between Mr. Morris and Mr. Rumsfeld), I had a hard time deciphering the narrative, or “point”, of the whole thing.  More precise, I could not figure out Mr. Morris’ position on the matter of Mr. Rumsfeld.

Based on the promotional spots for this film, I believed I was going to see a documentary that somehow revealed something about Mr. Rumsfeld that I had not already thought before.  In short, that there was something more behind the public persona he portrayed while in public office; a persona, I might add, that I remember as coming off as calculating and manipulative. However, the movie left me with a feeling of utter vagueness.  I couldn’t tell what the point of it all was.Unknown knowns

At some points throughout the film, I felt that Morris was trying to prove Rumsfeld was complicit in his knowledge of a plan for the second Iraq War in 2003, prior to the attacks on 9/11.  Rumsfeld is filmed reading memos he had written that seem to indicate he had some foreknowledge of the plans to attack Iraq.  Or, what some also might call, the “Neo-Conservative Agenda for the Middle East.”  But then, a few minutes later, Morris allows Rumsfeld the cliché when asked about the outcome of the Iraq War, “Everything seems amazing in retrospect…Stuff happens.”  What is Morris trying to prove here?  That Rumsfeld is complicit in something sinister, or that he deserves the benefit of the doubt?

The film then delves into a historical exploration of Rumsfeld’s political career, coupled with a smattering of personal anecdotes (I guess for the purpose of humanizing the subject of the film).  And yet, each of the sub-topics of his civic and political career; his time in the U.S. Navy; his positions in the Nixon and Ford Administrations; his actions leading up to and during 9/11; seem to have an implication that “something fishy is going on”.  And yet, these “fishy implications” are never summarized, or spelled out by Mr. Morris.  One is left wondering, “what was the point of all that?”  I for one left wondering, “what did I just see?”

Was I to believe Rumsfeld was culpable for covering up something during his time in the Bush Administration?  Or, was I to believe that he was a noble man, doing his job, and simply made an honest series of mistaken decisions along the way?  There is much evidence to suggest that the latter is not the case.  Morris does not offer an overt position or explanation on either in the film.

In fairness, it could have been Mr. Morris’ intention all along to present a nuanced portrayal of a controversial figure.  Perhaps, I am simply too caught up in my pre-conceived notions of Mr. Rumsfeld to give him a fair shot.  Or, perhaps Mr. Morris knowingly used Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and calculated demeanor to paint a picture of him that so may Americans already suspect…

Just as Mr. Rumsfeld perfected the art of language manipulation in his press conferences (as the film shows), Mr. Morris utilizes Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and smarmy gestures to show that there really might be something lurking under the surface that is not entirely tangible.  There just might be, as Morris hints at throughout the film, something hiding behind that wide grin….Something, as Rumsfled might say, that could be considered an “unknown known.”