Durbin, Duckworth, Booker, Hirono Introduce Bill To Expand Public Service Loan Forgiveness To Adjunct Professors

WASHINGTON – At a time when adjunct faculty members make up nearly half of higher education instructors nationwide, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) today introduced legislation that would allow part-time faculty at colleges and universities across the country – who are often paid low wages with few benefits – to be eligible to participate in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.  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 benefits, including participation in PSLF.

“It is only right that we recognize the public service of adjunct professors by allowing them to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues,” Durbin said. “This simple change would make a big difference in the lives of thousands of people, and it’s the right thing to do.”

“Many adjunct professors have chosen to devote their lives to public service and deserve to be able to access student loan debt relief,” Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m proud to be introducing this legislation with Senators Durbin and Booker that would expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to include adjunct professors in Illinois and across the country, encouraging younger Americans to enter and stay in vital professions like education.”

“Part-time faculty generally receive lower pay and fewer benefits than their colleagues despite the important role they play in educating our nation’s students,” said Hirono. “By making them eligible for programs like PSLF [Public Service Loan Forgiveness], we can support these educators – who, locally in Hawaii, number around 2,000 instructors – while incentivizing others to pursue teaching careers.”

Nationally, nearly 50 percent of instructional higher education faculty work on a part-time contingent basis, often facing low pay with little or no benefits or job security.  Most of these faculty have advanced degrees and are among the 44 million Americans with student debt. 

Adjunct faculty are paid an average of $3,894 per class taught, with the annual income of the lowest-paid adjuncts hovering around the minimum wage.  Some rely on public assistance or work other part-time jobs to supplement their income.  Many times adjuncts piece together hours to get a full course load by teaching at more than one school in the same semester.  And in most cases adjuncts are paid only for the time spent teaching, not the time spent preparing for class or meeting with students. 

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.

The legislation is supported by the Service Employees International Union; International Union; American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association; and National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.