Bill Would Forgive College Loans

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Congress wants to forgive some college loans for youth workers, but it’s unclear whether President Bush will go along.

The House and Senate have each passed versions of the College Cost Reduction Act, which includes two provisions affecting youth workers. One section specifies eight categories as “service in areas of national need,” including early childhood educators, nurses and child welfare workers. Individuals in those fields can get $1,000 a year in loan forgiveness for each year they work, for up to five years.

Another provision says that those who work in certain public sector jobs – including teaching, child care and child welfare – can pay back their loans at a level based on their income for 10 years, then have the rest of the loan forgiven.

In a letter to members of Congress, the Child Welfare League of America called the measure an “important step in addressing the shortage of child welfare workers.”

The National Association of Social Workers also supported the measure. “Social workers in welfare tend to stay a couple of years and move on,” said Nancy McFall Jean, a lobbyist for the association. “This will help to attract and retain.”

The U.S. Department of Education, however, opposes the bill on grounds that appear unrelated to the loan forgiveness measures. The bill also deals with measures such as an increase in Pell Grants.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a prepared statement that the bill “does little to benefit America’s neediest students and essentially diverts a majority of savings in the bill to individuals out of school rather than focusing on aiding low-income students in school.”

The House and Senate must resolve differences in the bill before sending it to Bush.