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 all settings. 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


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 workers.


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


Dina Kastner, MSS, MLSP

Webinar: "Managing Student Loan Debt during COVID-19"

The Student Borrower Protection Center  and NASW developed a comprehensive presentation providing guidance to help social workers repay and manage their student loans. 

The webinar is free on-demand and can be accessed through the NASW CE Institute.

Understand and Manage Your Student Loans

person with calculator and pen

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

young woman studying

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