Public service workers have a federal program available to them that could help with student debt, but many are struggling to apply. A bill in the Washington State Legislature aims to remedy this.
the Cancellation of civil service loans The program wipes out student debt for public servants after making 10 years of payments and was streamlined by the Biden administration last year.
Tessa Bowen, an administrative assistant at Highline College in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines, had a debt of $90,000 when she graduated from college, which was difficult to pay off while she worked in education.
“These are just a few of the lowest-paying public service jobs here in Washington,” Bowen pointed out. “Because of that and being a single mom for part of that time, I don’t have $600 a month to spend on minimum student loan payments.”
Bowen shared that it was difficult to find correct information about the loan forgiveness program. Senate Bill 5847 passed the Senate and is scheduled for an executive session Monday in the House Committee on College and Workforce Development.
Seamus Petrie, legislative specialist with the Washington Public Employees Association, said the bill would require the state to provide basic information about navigating the loan forgiveness program, noting that borrowers have found the process frustrating. It also requires annual updates and provides new employees with information within 30 days of starting public sector employment.
“This will provide a centralized and trusted source of information for public sector employees so they know how to qualify for the program and what resources are available,” Petrie explained.
The bill would also ensure that part-time faculty are eligible for the program by calculating the hours they work outside of the classroom.
Bowen argued that the bill is an easy way for the state to pass the same information on to public service workers.
“We tend to be underappreciated, undervalued and often taken for granted,” Bowen argued. “I just feel like the more bills like this there are, the more it illuminates the things we do without asking for much in return.”
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