The OAH Strongly Urges Support of the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014
The Organization of American Historians strongly urges support of S. 2712, the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014, recently sponsored by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois to allow adjunct, contingent and other part-time faculty to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.
The Organization of American Historians, a professional society representing more than 7,800 historians working in the United States and abroad, affirms that S. 2712 constitutes good public policy for all of higher education, including the history discipline. As it currently stands, the PSLF program encourages graduating students to apply for and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. After making 120 payments (10 years of student loan payments) graduates may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program while employed full-time by selected public service employers in such careers as the military, public education, public health and law enforcement. Many full-time faculty at public universities and some part-time faculty at community colleges qualify for the loan forgiveness program as it was originally passed.
Over the last 40 years, however, the higher education environment has changed, so that around half of all faculty positions today are being filled by adjunct, contingent, and other part-time employees who are not eligible for PSLF benefits. This is true across higher education as well as in the history field. Budgetary and staffing trends in modern schools of higher learning have reduced the proportion of full-time history faculty members while escalating the percentage of part-time adjunct instructors, so that higher education today relies heavily on part-time faculty members to carry its fundamental educational mission. Yet, to secure the advanced degrees that allow them to enter public service and serve their communities as educators, the highly-skilled historians and other specialists who staff today's part-time jobs often acquired the heavy burden of student loans. Now they find themselves in part-time positions that pay far less than full-time positions with fewer benefits; they often lack job security and health insurance. Many are forced to string together positions at multiple institutions barely to manage a living wage, much less pay off their debts.
The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014 proposed by Senator Durbin will help to alleviate this problem. It will add adjunct faculty at public colleges and universities to the list of professions currently qualifying for loan forgiveness under the PSLF. Consequently, it will reduce the financial burden imposed both on part-time historians and on adjunct faculty in other disciplines. And it will enhance part-time faculty members' ability to stay in public service and continue their contributions to higher education.
The Organization of American historians urges the United States Congress to take up Senator Durbin's S. 2712, the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, and enact it speedily into law.