Editorials

Lifting the debt burden

The UFT has established a partnership with the National Student Debt Forgiveness Center to assist members in applying for federal programs that can help them dig out from their burdensome student debt. It couldn’t happen at a better time.

Soaring student debt in recent years is attributed to a number of factors: the 2008 financial collapse, the rising costs of college tuition and stagnant wages. Other factors are unscrupulous loan companies charging high fees and the proliferation of for-profit colleges that work the system to obtain federal subsidies and stick students with the bill and a worthless diploma.

Some 44.2 million Americans owed a total of $1.5 trillion in student loans. The New York Federal Reserve estimates that the New York City portion of that debt is $34.8 billion and the average balance is $34,900, higher than the U.S. average of $29,500. The average age of the New Yorker carrying that debt is 33.

The Obama administration had enacted new regulations to protect student borrowers from misleading and predatory practices, but those rules were rescinded in the first year of the Trump administration in directives issued by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos’ attempt to suspend and rewrite a key Obama-era rule erasing the debt of students defrauded by diploma mills was recently halted by a federal judge, who called her tactics “arbitrary and capricious.”

But help is available if you know how to find it. A public service loan forgiveness program allows government employees to cancel the remaining balance on federal student loans after 10 years of on-time payments. The AFT has filed a lawsuit against one of the country’s largest loan providers, Navient, for steering borrowers away from that program and providing false information.

The UFT program is designed to help union members determine their eligibility for that program and others and then give them individualized legal assistance to lessen their debt burden.
It’s all part of the supports and services the union is committed to providing to its members.
 

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