Durbin and Franken Introduce Bill to Expand Student Loan Forgiveness Program to Adjunct Professors

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – As the reliance on part-time faculty grows at colleges and universities across the country, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation that would allow part-time faculty – who are often paid low wages with few benefits – to be eligible to participate in the federal student loan forgiveness program for public servants. In Illinois, more than half of all faculty at public and non-profit colleges and universities work on a part-time basis, which often makes them ineligible for most benefits, including participation in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.


“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. “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.”


“Part-time faculty like adjunct professors, who typically receive fewer benefits and lower pay than other educators, often carry a large amount of burdensome student loan debt,” Franken said. “By expanding a key loan forgiveness program, our bill will help these professors cut down on their debt load.”


Between 1991 and 2011, the number of part-time faculty in the United States more than doubled. Simultaneously, the percentage of professors holding tenure-track positions steadily decreased, reaching a record low of only 24 percent in 2011.


Adjunct faculty members earn an average annual income of between $20,000 and $25,000. Most adjunct professors are paid per credit hour of instruction, though they may not be compensated for the hours they spend preparing for class or advising students outside the classroom. Those who seek to support themselves by teaching classes at more than one school end up bearing a full-time workload without standard employee benefits like vacation time, paid sick days, or access to group health-care.


The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is designed to encourage graduates to seek careers in public service by offering student loan forgiveness for eligible federal loans after making 120 qualifying payments while working in government service or the non-profit sector. Graduates with jobs in fields like nursing, military service, and public health qualify for the program. Although many educators may also qualify – including full-time faculty at public universities and some part-time faculty at community colleges – other faculty members who only work part-time are not eligible for the program. More information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is available here.


Supporters of today’s legislation include the Service Employees International Union; the National Education Association; the American Federation of Teachers; the United States Student Association; and the International Union of United Automobile, Aerospace, & Agricultural Implement Workers of America.