Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Loan Forgiveness for School Counselors

Source: http://www.schoolcounselor.org/content.asp?contentid=528

Loan Forgiveness for School Counselors http://www.schoolcounselor.org/images/1px_spacer.gifOn July 11, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2669, The College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, on a 273-149 vote. The measure would eliminate nearly $19 billion in lender subsidies and use the money to increase the maximum Pell Grant amount by $500 over five years and to finance a series of measures to make college loans more affordable.  The bill would also authorize more than $1.5 billion for nine new entitlement programs, including $500 million for colleges serving minorities, $300 million on philanthropic groups that help low-income students get loans and an estimated $400 million in teachers training grants to universities.  The establishment of these new programs is what made the bill so controversial. The money saved goes right into these new programs, making fiscal conservatives very uncomfortable. The news for school counselors, however, is good.  As part of this bill, loan forgiveness programs for service in “areas of national need” were incorporated.  As a result of ongoing advocacy by ASCA and our allied organizations, school counselors are included as part of the list of occupations and professions eligible for loan forgiveness. Specifically, the bill states that the Secretary of Education is authorized to forgive not more than $5,000 of a borrower’s student loan obligation for being employed full-time in an “area of national need.” Forgiveness is provided in $1,000 increments at the end of each year for a period not to exceed five years. Also, individuals must be employed at Title I schools serving certain students that meet locally established criteria.  Other professions designated as “areas of national need” include: Early childhood educators, nurses, foreign language specialists, librarians, highly qualified teachers employed as full-time teachers of bilingual education, highly qualified teachers who are working in low-income areas, child welfare workers, speech-language pathologists, national service volunteers, and certain public sector employees (public safety, emergency management, public health, and public interest legal services). While this was certainly a victory for loan forgiveness for school counselors, this bill has a long way to go before it becomes law. The Senate must pass its own version of the bill, and then the two chambers must meet in conference to iron out differences. It then must be sent to the president who has already been threatened to veto the bill. ASCA will continue to work behind the scenes on this issue as well monitor the situation in the coming months.

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