Thousands of adjunct faculty and other part-time educators will now qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness under a union-backed law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday.
In a big win for union activists, the law expands eligibility under state labor law by giving educators credit for work outside the classroom. The law would apply a multiplier to faculty’s in-class hours so that they can meet the federal 30-hour full-time definition and qualify for PLSF.
“Many adjuncts work the equivalent of full-time but have been overlooked because only their classroom hours were counted,” said Professional Staff Congress President James Davis, who represents about 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY. “This legislation changes that. It recognizes the full-time work performed by many so-called part-time faculty.”
“This will be an incredible benefit for our contingent and adjunct members who were carved out of the program,” said United University Professions President Fred Kowal, representing about 40,000 faculty and staff at SUNY. “This law means the process is simplified, streamlined and expanded to those who need this help the most,”
PSLF erases the federal student loan debt of educators and other public service workers after 10 years of service and 120 qualifying monthly payments. After unions pushed hard for changes, the Biden administration last fall announced a temporary waiver that expands the kind of payments that count. That waiver expires Oct. 31, so it’s crucial to apply now.
At a bill-signing event at Manhattan Borough Community College, Gov. Hochul highlighted the story of Genevieve LaForge, an adjunct philosophy professor at John Jay College, who will now qualify for PSLF.
LaForge, who came from a low-income family, took out a $74,0000 loan so she could study politics and philosophy at Penn State. Since graduating, she’s never missed a payment in 14 years and paid back $69,000— but because of interest, she still owes $54,000.
“If it weren’t for this bill, she’d be paying off the loan in another 16 years when she’s 58 years old,” Hochul said. “That’s the kind of people we’re helping today.”
Hochul said the relief will be life-changing for LaForge. “She said: ‘It makes me feel whole again. It will lift up what feels like punishment for the crime of being a poor kid who just wants to go to college.’”
In addition to teaching at John Jay, Hochul noted LaForge has dedicated herself to teaching incarcerated individuals at Otisville State Corrections facility.
“Look at what she’s done” as a public servant, Hochul said. “How many other Genevieves are out there? People shouldn’t have to pay all their adult life for the privilege of a college education.”
Under the new law, educators will meet the 30-hour threshold because they will be credited with 3.35 hours for every hour they are teaching in the classroom. This acknowledges the many long hours adjuncts spend preparing for class, grading student work and meeting with students.
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta praised the governor’s action on the new law and said the union is working to raise awareness of the PSLF program for all public employees.
The statewide union offers free student loan debt workshops and services in partnership with Cambridge Credit Counseling. Since the pandemic, NYSUT has moved the workshops online, helping thousands with informational webinars and individualized follow-up support. For info, go to studentloans.nysut.org.
Kowal said UUP has helped members clear more than $2.1 million in student loan debt with online clinics held every payday. To register, go to uupinfo.org.
NYSUT’s two national affiliates also provide help. The AFT offers student debt clinics, along with Summer, an online student loan management platform, aft.org/benefits/summer.
The National Education Association offers links to webinars, FAQs and the Student Debt Navigator, nea.org/studentdebt.
Hochul also unveiled a new website, www.dfs.ny.gov to help make the PSLF process easier to navigate.