Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently introduced S. 2712, the “Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014.” The bill would allow part-time faculty – who are often paid low wages with few benefits – to be eligible to participate in the federal student loan forgiveness program for public servants. NCH has sent a letter to Senator Durbin supporting passage of the legislation.
Many NCH organizations include adjunct faculty among their members and have been attempting to improve their working conditions. Both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians have issued statements supporting S. 2712.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, graduates may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program loans after having made 120 qualifying payments while employed full-time by certain public service employers.
Although many educators may also qualify – including full-time faculty at public universities and some part-time faculty at community colleges – other faculty members who only work part-time may not be eligible for the program. The legislation would add adjunct faculty at colleges and universities to a list of other professions that currently qualify for loan forgiveness such as public health, law enforcement, the military, public education and others.
More than half of all faculty at public and non-profit colleges and universities work on a part-time basis and most have advanced degrees. Many of them have substantial student debt accumulated during the many years of preparation for such positions. Unfortunately, they are currently ineligible for participation in the PSLF Program.
At a time when tenure-track positions are declining, reliance upon adjunct faculty is increasing. Adjunct faculty are underpaid, lack job security and rarely receive basic employee benefits such as health care coverage and vacation and sick leave. They perform many of the same tasks as those of tenured professors without being adequately compensated for their time and talents.
It is not likely the Senate will take action on the bill this late in the session. After the 114th Congress convenes in January, NCH is planning to send a letter to all Senators urging they become cosponsors of the legislation.