Student Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers

NASW promotes loan forgiveness for social workers as part of its ongoing work to improve working conditions, salaries, and other benefits for members of the profession and to ensure that consumers have access to qualified professionals. 

NASW will continue its support for proposals to provide loan forgiveness for social workers in child welfare and schools, while also working to secure loan forgiveness and educational supports for social workers in other practice areas. It is important to note that NASW does not determine loan forgiveness eligibility, nor does NASW disperse loan forgiveness funds. However, the  NASW Foundation does offer scholarships and fellowships.


  Download the Student Loan Forgiveness Issue Brief

Background


As many as 37% of public four-year-school graduates have too much debt to manage on a social worker's salary. According to the Council on Social Work Education’s report, 2013 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States, 81% of baccalaureate graduates, 80.5% of master’s graduates, and 65.5% of doctoral graduates have loan debt. The mean amount of loan debt ranged from $31,880 to $42,149. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a social worker’s median salary is only $45,500. 

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

Current Student Loan Forgiveness Options Are Limited for Social Workers


College Cost Reduction Act of 2007
This act established a new Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that discharges any remaining educational debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service, including government and nonprofit agencies. Although this law is a step in eradicating student loan debt, the 10-year service requirement, during which loan repayment must be made, may be difficult for social workers. It is challenging to meet these requirements due to the combination of low salaries and the rising cost of education.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
This program allows licensed clinical social workers $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.

Higher Education Act
The 2008 reauthorization included expanded loan forgiveness provisions. However, the debt cancellation program, though authorized, has never been funded by Congress.

Policy Solution


Reauthorize the Higher Education Act Loan Forgiveness provisions and appropriate funding to support their use and implementation for social workers.

Ensure the future of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for social worker.

References


1. 2013 statistics on social work education in the United States, Council on Social Work Education

2. Social Workers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

Key Policy Issues



Contact


For more information, contact:

Dina Kastner, MSS, MLSP
dkastner.nasw@socialworkers.org
 202.336.8218


Student Debt Stories from Social Workers


Advocacy-student-loan-forgiveness

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


A Social Worker's Fateful Dilemma


Created by students at the Wartburg College School of Social Work