A bill introduced Wednesday promises to extend some of the benefits of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to adjunct professors and faculty, who do not currently qualify based on the number of hours in their workweek. Specifically, this bill aims to offer loan forgiveness to a class of academics who are at a significant disadvantage with respect to earnings, position and job security. This is a laudable step and will benefit a group of people who serve the public enough to deserve it and more than need it.
Similarly, Congress recently passed a comprehensive piece of legislation that allows military veterans and their dependents to pay in-state tuition at any school that receives funding from the GI Bill. Here again, an admirable step is being taken to extend benefits to a disadvantaged section of the population sorely in need of relief. Both of these examples show that we can do better when it comes to helping people pay for college and escape crushing debt.
Both military veterans and adjunct professors represent people for whom the system of public trust continuously fails. The military is recruited through the rhetoric of honor and service, with the understanding that those who serve their country can expect their just reward afterward. The reality is that former service members must fight for basic services owed to them, including adequate medical care, employment assistance and the process of GI Bill funding for college. This new bill offers another way in which that trust can be renewed and those who have served can continue to enjoy the opportunities that were promised to them.
Adjunct professors and faculty teach classes in colleges for which students pay the same amount per credit hour, and yet they are paid a fraction of what a tenured professor makes for that same instruction. They are eligible for fewer job-related benefits and often work without any kind of security or contract for the coming year. Many work at several campuses part time to make ends meet. The least we can offer them is loan forgiveness so that their debt is manageable.
Student debt is a looming problem of terrible proportions. No generation that has come before has entered into adulthood so saddled with debt or so hopeless to repay it. While these pieces of legislation single out groups who serve the public and very much deserve some relief, this system is broken for everyone. We are taking steps in the right direction to ameliorate the cost of an education, but we still have very far to go.