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Student Debt Relief for Adjuncts Bill

August 1, 2014

Adjunct faculty members and their advocates celebrated this week proposed legislation that would help adjunct faculty members quality for the Public Loan Forgiveness Program. The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, would allow adjunct faculty members who have student debt apply for the loan forgiveness program for public and non-profit employees. Currently, many adjuncts who want full-time work but can't find it can't apply for the program because applicants must work 30 hours or more per week.

"As their budgets have tightened, colleges and universities have become increasingly reliant upon part-time adjunct faculty who face low pay, few if any benefits, and minimal job security,” Durbin said in a statement. “The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt. It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues.”

Adjunct Action, the Service Employees International Union's adjunct organizing campaign, in a news release said the bill, if passed, would have "tremendous impact" on the lives of adjuncts, as the average debt burden for those with advanced degrees is $61,000 by some estimates. Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, called the bill "very good," and said it was perhaps the first piece of legislation focused exclusively on adjunct faculty.

"The bill will need some grassroots support if it will have any chance of passing, but contingent faculty and their allies are beginning to show that they have that capacity," Maisto said via email. "The best thing about the bill is that it is continuing to carry forward the momentum that has been building over the last few years thanks to the efforts of a lot of activists around the country."

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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