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.
Current Student Loan Forgiveness Options for Social Workers
The Department of Education has overhauled the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program through a waiver. See the press release from the Department of Education.
The waiver will run through October 31, 2022. That means borrowers who need to consolidate will have to 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 who will host webinars about these changes.
You can find out more about the overhaul on their website.
College Cost Reduction Act of 2007
This act established a 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, has been difficult for social workers as well as other public service workers.
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.
2019 statistics on social work education in the United States, Council on Social Work Education
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers,