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Keep the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program in place

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This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which — since 2007 — has offered an affordable path to student loan repayment for those who dedicate a decade of their careers to public service.

We believe in supporting our nation’s teachers, first responders, military members, postal workers and others, which is why we have partnered together on Capitol Hill to form the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Caucus. Our goal is to preserve and protect the PSLF program, which was enacted under President George W. Bush to forgive the remaining balance of federal student loan debt for qualifying, full-time public service workers after 120 on-time payments.

{mosads}We believe in keeping that promise because we know how much it means to our constituents and the future of America. Consider the example of Greg Cechak, a 31-year-old sixth-grade public school teacher in Pennsylvania.

To become a teacher, Greg attended Bloomsburg University, where he graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and a whole lot of student loan debt. Cechak’s parents, who also are Pennsylvania public school teachers, helped as much as they could. But after six years of monthly payments, Greg still owes $80,000.

Greg and his wife, Tracy, who also is a public school teacher, recently welcomed their second child. We, too, are parents of small children and understand that one of the biggest concerns of our constituents is whether their children will have the financial means to attend college and pursue a career of their choice.

For the Cechaks, the light at the end of the tunnel is PSLF. In 2021, after 10 years of full-time work as a public school teacher, and 120 monthly payments toward his federal student loans, Greg should be eligible for PSLF. At that point, he can take the hundreds of dollars that he and his wife spend each month on federal student loan payments and put it toward their daughters’ college savings accounts.

Greg views PSLF as a two-way deal that he struck with the U.S. government. He promised to give his all to his students, to stay late at school every day, to throw his heart into his classroom and coaching, not for a lucrative paycheck but to invest in future generations. In return, after 10 years of service, the federal government promised to forgive the remaining balance of his loans.

Now, Greg is worried that the government won’t fulfill its end of the bargain. So are we: the White House is proposing to end PSLF for future borrowers. This would force prospective teachers to choose between their passion for teaching and their need to start investing in their family’s future instead of spending prolonged years paying off the past. The consequences could be similarly dire for other forms of public service. Our nation’s nurses, firefighters, public defenders, police officers, military employees and first responders are too important to be ignored. We can’t stand by and let the burdens of student loan debt prevent Americans from pursing these tremendously important careers in service to their communities — careers that often pay far less than their worth to society.

In Pennsylvania, for example, fewer and fewer college students are choosing education as a career. In 2014-15, the state issued 6,215 in-state teaching certificates to Pennsylvania college students, which is 62 percent fewer than were issued in 2012-13. To keep our public schools strong and able to provide an excellent education to every student, more — not fewer — Pennsylvanians need to choose education as a career. PSLF is an effective incentive.

Ending PSLF would be a terrible mistake, a revoking of our government’s promise to the students who are the future of America. We founded the PSLF Caucus to make sure that doesn’t happen. We aim to ensure that the government fulfills its promise to Greg and all the others like him — people for whom PSLF has made a career in public service possible.

Boyle represents Pennsylvania’s 13th District and Costello represents Pennsylvania’s 6th District. They co-founded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Caucus.


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