Durbin, Hirono, Wyden, Whitehouse, Booker Introduce Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act To Expand Public Service Loan Forgiveness To Adjunct Professors

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act to allow part-time faculty at colleges and universities – who are often have high student debt loads and are paid low wages with few benefits – to be eligible to participate in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.  

PSLF is designed to encourage graduates to pursue a career in public service by offering loan forgiveness after 10 years of full-time work in government or the non-profit sector.  Under current law, a public service job is defined as full-time work, or a minimum weekly average of 30 hours on an annual basis, as verified by the public service employer.  It may be difficult or even impossible for the many thousands of adjunct faculty who work at several schools on a contingent basis to meet the 30 hour minimum requirement due to the method full-time work is calculated.  As such, these instructors, despite often working more than 30 hours, are effectively barred from participating in PSLF. The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act would expand PSLF to include part-time faculty in the loan forgiveness program.

“Adjunct professors spend hours, in and out of the classroom, ensuring that students get the best education possible.  Despite their dedication, they aren’t eligible for the same benefits as their full-time colleagues,” said Durbin. “It’s only right that we acknowledge the public service of adjunct professors and expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to offer them the student debt relief they deserve. It’s a simple change that would make a profound impact on educators.”  

“Pursuing higher education should not land you in financial handcuffs,” Wyden said.“The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program should allow adjunct faculty in Oregon and nationwide financial breathing room to take care of their families and not be overburdened by debt. I’m all in to get the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act over the finish line.”  

“I’ve fought for years on behalf of student borrowers to improve and expand access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which is why I’m glad to join this legislation to extend PSLF eligibility to part-time faculty working at public colleges and universities,” said Whitehouse.  “It’s a simple change that would fairly recognize the tireless efforts of the public servants working to educate the next generation.”

“Despite playing a vital role in ensuring students graduate college with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed, adjunct faculty still face barriers to participating in the PSLF program,” said Booker. “This legislation is about fairness. It will ensure that more adjunct faculty members are able to access the loan forgiveness benefits that they have earned through their years of service and dedication to our nation’s young people.”

Nationally, 47 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 millions of Americans with student debt. 

On average, adjunct faculty are paid $2,000 to $3,000 per class, making an average annual income that hovers around minimum wage.  Only 20 percent of adjunct faculty said they are able to comfortably cover basic expenses, and some even rely on public assistance to supplement their income.  Women and professors of color are also more likely to hold adjunct positions that do not lead to tenure-track roles.  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.  This means an adjunct professor may work up to 66 hours per week—teaching and preparing for courses at multiple institutions—but is only compensated for 26 hours of work. 

The bill is supported by American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, American Association of University Professors, and National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.