The American Federation of Teachers union says its lobbying is to thank for the Biden administration‘s dramatic expansion of a program that forgives an unlimited amount of student loans for public employees, and that one teacher used it to get out of $450,000 in obligations.
In a move that is separate from the widely-publicized $10,000 loan forgiveness but in many ways more radical, the Biden administration used a “waiver” to stop enforcing the rules of an existing program that allows people to have all remaining student loans forgiven after 10 years of working for the government or a nonprofit.
The lack of enforcement expanded the pool of those eligible so dramatically that it forgave $9 billion in the last year, compared to $1 billion total in the program’s previous history. The program arose from a 2007 law and is called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
In a Labor Day message, union president Randi Weingarten said the union’s lobbying — which was also a leading cause of keeping schools closed due to coronavirus — was also responsible for the giveaway, which largely benefited the union’s members. The union played a role in helping elect Joe Biden.
“We worked directly with the Biden administration on the latest PSLF fixes and the recent game-changing announcement on student debt cancellation. Through the AFT’s advocacy around PSLF, $10 billion of student debt has been forgiven for 175,000 public service workers so far. Here’s just one example: This summer, we helped an AFT member in California wipe out her $450,000 student debt,” Weingarten said.
The average discharged under waivers was $61,000, according to the most recent data provided by the Department. That’s far greater than the $10,000 offered to non-government employees under the latest Biden plan, and unlike that plan, people with incomes higher than $125,000 are eligible. Weingarten — who does not have children — made $534,000 in 2020, a year when students got little in the way of in-person education, its tax filing shows.
The “waiver” was justified by coronavirus, but is still in effect for the next two months, even though almost no one is currently unable to earn income because of coronavirus. “We urge eligible student loan borrowers to apply for a Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver, even if you have been denied before. Don’t delay — the waiver program expires on October 31,” she wrote.
Forgiving unlimited student loans could incentivize people to attend expensive college for far longer than they need to, and to rack up useless degrees, with taxpayers saddled with all of it after 10 years in the classroom.
The Congressional Budget Office has flagged the issue of individual people discharging huge amounts, saying that modifying the program to institute a limit of $57,000 could help reign in the federal deficit.
Ironically, data from a study by a teachers union indicates that there are few academic benefits to majoring in education. A 2011 study by the other major teachers union, the National Education Association, showed that “majoring in education in college correlated statistically with doing worse on teaching exams,” the book Race to the Bottom reported. Undergraduate education majors scored worse on teachers certification exams than those who majored in anything else, it found.
According to the College Board, students intending on majoring in education have among the lowest SAT scores of any major. Yet, another study found, they graduate with the highest GPAs — indicating that the four expensive years of college have little rigor.
As data has mounted that school closures were devastating to children, particularly poor children, the teachers unions have publicly sought to minimize their role in forcing extended closures. But in the message sent to members, it said we “we fight for safe working conditions not just for ourselves but for the safety of our students.”
The union’s Labor Day message also attacked “conservatives,” while simultaneously saying it was “extremist politicians” who were “politicizing education.” It said conservatives “oppose public education and teaching children to have tolerance, empathy, and the skills, knowledge and ability to think critically that they need to achieve their dreams.”