Student Loan Debt Relief for Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers is committed to advocating for policy changes that address the critical issue of student loan debt. 

NASW is disappointed that on June 30 the Supreme Court struck down a plan for student loan cancellation from President Biden through Executive Action. Recognizing the profound impact of student loans on social workers and the broader public service workforce, NASW consistently monitors the political landscape for opportunities to make progress and create meaningful impact.


Student Debt Cancellation Is Still Alive

Although the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30, 2023, struck down President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 of federal student debt for 40 million borrowers, the Department of Education’s (ED) July 14 Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Account Adjustment announcement and President Biden’s June 30 “Plan B” response to the Court’s ruling offer alternative ways to cancel and reduce student debt.

The first wave of the IDR Account Adjustment includes the automatic canceling of $39 billion in federal student loan debt for more than 804,000 borrowers. Eligible borrowers will not have to do anything to get this relief; the Biden Administration will contact the eligible borrowers and cancel their debt automatically.

President Biden’s Plan B will use the Higher Education Act to begin a new process through “negotiated rulemaking” to establish a new debt relief/cancellation program. We will keep you informed of advocacy to get Biden’s new student debt relief program implemented quickly.

With student debt payments to resume this fall, President Biden announced another effort, the “12-month onramp” plan, that will bar the Department of Education from reporting delinquent borrowers who have missed payments to credit agencies for 12 months.

Learn more from our partner, the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), about these new student debt relief efforts.

In recent years, NASW achieved a substantial victory by helping to secure a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver, which offers crucial relief for social workers pursuing careers in public service. This accomplishment underscores NASW's dedication to supporting its members and ensuring their financial well-being.

As part of its ongoing efforts, NASW actively participates in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness coalition and maintains a close partnership with the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC). Through these collaborations, NASW works towards expanding student loan debt relief options, strengthening the PSLF program, cancellation measures, employer-sponsored relief, and other means, including scholarships.

One of NASW's key objectives is to broaden PSLF eligibility to encompass social workers employed by nonprofits and for-profit organizations that currently do not qualify. This pursuit is not without its challenges, but NASW remains resolute in its commitment to advancing the interests of social workers and expanding their access to critical student loan benefits.

NASW responds to Department of Education (ED) requests for comments, and also actively engages with external organizations to provide support on this issue. As an example, NASW was one of 261 organizations calling on members of Congress to reject Republican efforts to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to retroactively reverse the federal student loan payment pause and block President Biden’s debt relief plan. NASW's proactive involvement in these collaborations help ensure we are shaping the dialogue surrounding student loan debt relief and ensuring the interests of social workers are represented in advocacy on student loan debt relief measures.

Through its continuous monitoring, strategic partnerships, and active engagement in policy discussions, NASW demonstrates its unwavering commitment to addressing the challenges posed by student debt and championing the needs of social workers nationwide.

Read this article to learn more about what you need to know as student loan payments resume and how NASW advocates and supports student debt relief efforts for social workers.  President Biden has also announced new initiatives to provide debt relief and support for student loan borrowers. Take time to learn more about them.


According to the Council on Social Work Education’s report, 2019 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States, "Educational debt for baccalaureate and master’s social work graduates is higher today than it was 10 years ago. Master’s graduates have, on average, more than 50% more debt today; in 2019, the average loan debt amount was $46,591, compared to $30,789 in 2009. On average, baccalaureate graduates had $29,323 in loan debt in 2019, compared to $24,683 in 2009."

The report finds that 73.3% of baccalaureate graduates and 76.1% of master’s graduates have loan debt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a social worker’s median salary is only $51,760.

While there are federally authorized loan forgiveness programs available to social workers, additional resources are required.


1. 2019 statistics on social work education in the United States - Council on Social Work Education

2. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers - Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program 

Public service professionals, including social workers, may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program

This program allows licensed clinical social workers up to an initial $50,000 to repay student loans in exchange for two years of serving in a community-based site in a high-need designated Health Professional Shortage Area. Social workers may be eligible for additional loan repayment funds through one-year continuation service contracts.

Updates From 2022: Student Loan Debt Forgiveness and Repayment Options

NASW membership helps social work students and new professionals every day. Members have access to resources that complement their studies, further their learning, and prepare them for professional life.

On April 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will bring student loan borrowers closer to public service loan and income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness by addressing historical failures in the administration of the federal student loan programs.

The actions include:

  • Ending “forbearance steering” by enforcing existing regulations which require loan servicers to provide clear and accurate information about their options for staying out of delinquency.
  • Conducting a one-time revision of IDR payments to address past inaccuracies.
  • Permanently fixing IDR payment counting by reforming Federal Student Aid’s IDR tracking.

On April 6, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration extended the student loan payment pause through August 31, 2022. Borrowers do not have to pay their student loans during this period, and they will not accrue interest or be referred to collections. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education is moving to pull millions of federal student loan borrowers out of default status and mark their accounts as current, giving borrowers a “fresh start” on repayment.

The Department of Education has overhauled the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program through a waiver. Read the Department of Education press release.

The PSLF Coalition, of which NASW is a member, has a fact sheet on the PSLF Waiver and how to apply for student loan forgiveness.

The waiver will run through October 31, 2022. Borrowers who need to consolidate must submit a consolidation application by that date. Similarly, borrowers will need to submit a PSLF form — the single application used for a review of employment certification, payment counts, and processing of forgiveness — on or before October 31, 2022, to have previously ineligible payments counted. The Department recommends borrowers take this action through the online PSLF Help Tool.

NASW is working with the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC). The SBPC is hosting a webinar about accessing PSLF in light of the waiver.

You can find out more about the overhaul and how to access Public Service Loan Forgiveness on the Student Borrower Protection Center website.


Dina Kastner, MSS, MLSP

Federal Student Aid Information Center

Did you receive Student Loan Forgiveness Through PSLF?

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NASW invites borrowers to participate in an innovative and important new survey that seeks to measure the impact of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) on borrowers' well-being, including financially-related stress, life satisfaction, mental distress, perceived overall stress, and job satisfaction.

Surveys will be accepted until further notice.

Learn more about the PSLF survey

Manage Your Student Loans

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NASW has partnered with Savi, a student loan technology company, to provide our members with resources and expertise to better understand, manage, and repay student loan debt.

Learn how to manage your student loans

Student Debt Stories from Social Workers

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Social workers often have school loan debt that exceeds their annual salary. NASW collects stories of loan debt to assist in our efforts to advocate for loan forgiveness for social workers.

Read student debt stories