Student Loan Debt Relief for Social Workers

NASW promotes student loan debt relief 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 advocacy and support for proposals to provide student loan debt relief 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.


Current Student Loan Debt Forgiveness and Repayment Options for Social Workers


Department of Education Announces Additional Improvements to the PSLF Waiver and Income-Driven Repayment Programs

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.


Encouraging News for Student Loan Borrowers: Payment Pause Extended Through August 31, 2022

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.


Public Service Loan Forgiveness Limited Waiver Opportunity Through October 31, 2022

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.


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.

Background

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.

References

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,


Contact


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


Live Webinars About the PSLF Temporary Waiver

In 2021, the Department of Education announced significant changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Equal Justice Works and the PSLF Coalition, of which NASW is a member, are hosting monthly Update on Public Service Loan Forgiveness webinars.

Register for upcoming PSLF webinars


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