Public Service Loan Forgiveness Discriminates Against Adjuncts
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- Are you an adjunct professor with student loans?
- Does(Do) your employer(s) qualify for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program?
- Between all your PSLF qualifying places of employment do you work at least 30 hours per week?
- Have you tried to participate in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program but have been unsuccessful because one for more of PSLF qualifying institutions has filled out the form incorrectly or not at all?
If so, you better check out this petition.
As an adjunct who has worked full time since graduating with a terminal degree, I have been unable to correctly certify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I have approached all my employers with the certification forms and have provided them with information on how to fill out the forms. I did this in consultation with Federal Loan Servicing. In all cases the forms were filled out incorrectly or not at all. After a wait period of about 6 months, I approached an employer again with instructions on how to fill out the form again. Only one out of four employers have now filled out the paperwork correctly.
Two employers have provided me with forms that indicate my credit hours. If you are an adjunct you know then that credit hours are only face-to-face hours and not all the other work required of being an adjunct. Federal Loan Servicing will accept credit hours but will not apply any further calculation on their end. They will not interpret those hours to reflect what I call "true hours" worked. Therein lies the crisis. There are no instructions informing employers how to calculate hours.
If an adjunct were to certify for PSLF on "credit hours" alone, one would have to teach 7 to 10 classes per week (depending on the number of credit hours per class), or an equivalent of TWO FULL TIME JOBS. The bottom line is, we need a standardized way of calculating adjunct hours without all this complication in order to make participation in programs for all qualifying individuals just and fair. We did this for the Affordable Heath Care Act and created a "reasonable method" for determining true hours worked by adjuncts. So we have the tools. We just need to apply these tools appropriately.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF ) is a federal program created to attract qualified workers to the public sector regardless of student loan debt. It is an important program because without it so many graduates could not become public servants. Programs such as PSLF in combination with other student loan repayment programs make careers in public service an option for many. After ten years of service and consistent payments, qualifying individuals may have their loans forgiven. In order to qualify for this program, one must work full time at a qualifying agency. Qualifications are certified through federal paperwork initiated by the individual and completed by the individual's employer.
Certification can be a simple process if you work full-time for employer. Part-timers can get certified easily as long as the total hours they work add up to full-time from qualifying employers. Part-time adjunct faculty, however, may find the process to be less them simple if not in fact near impossible.
Adjuncts are paid by their employers per "credit" hour they teach. Credit hours equal face time hours with students but they do not account for additional work hours required for teaching such as lecture prep, lesson planning and demonstration prep work or grading. This situation was addressed for the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA). A "reasonable method" was created to account for the total number of hours worked by adjuncts for the purposes of insurance benefits. For each hour of contact time (credit hours) adjuncts have with students they prep outside of class for an additional 1.25 hours. More about this can be read here.
This is exactly where the problem begins for adjuncts wishing to certify for PSLF. On the certification form, there are no instructions on how to account for adjunct hours. One would think applying the resolution made by the AHCA to calculate adjunct hours on the certification form is an obvious step. After all, the "reasonable method" was a tool designed specifically for Human Resources departments at institutes of higher learning throughout the United States. But the "reasonable method" requires interpretation because it is applied in situations determining health care coverage only. There needs to be a plainer way.
Adjuncts are barred access to governmental programs when employers are required to determine the number of hours worked by adjuncts on federal forms. Employers are often unable to certify Public Service Loan Forgiveness forms (OMB No. 1845-0110) for adjuncts since methods for calculating hours worked are not plainly stated.
If you are an adjunct, has your employer:
- Rejected filling out the form?
- Indicated the institution has no way of determining your hours worked?
- Filled in your "contact hours" as your hours worked?
Have you suggested exercising the same "reasonable" method used by your employer to determine health care coverage only to be ignored?
Tell the U.S. Department of Education to add a section on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness certification form plainly stating a method calculating adjunct hours worked.
Adjuncts face enormous financial challenges. Governmental programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness are available to qualified individuals. However, qualified adjuncts cannot access this program unless instructions for determining hours worked are expressly indicated. As a response to the Affordable Health Care Act, such an expression exists. But because instruction on how to calculate adjunct hours is not clearly stated in the PSLF program's paperwork, officials at qualifying institutions will not or cannot fill out this federal paperwork accurately.
Make access to governmental programs more just for adjuncts. Please sign this petition to ask the U.S. Department of Education to work with their loan servicers in creating a PSLF certification form that plainly states a method for calculating adjunct hours so that adjuncts can participate in public service programs available to them.
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