American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Frequently Asked Questions: New Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need Program

I just heard that Congress passed a new law identifying speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists as professions in national need and therefore eligible to have their student loans forgiven. Tell me more.

On August 6, 2008, the U.S. Congress sent H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, to the White House. On Thursday, August 14, 2008, the President signed the bill in to law (P.L. 110-315). P.L. 110-315 reauthorizes and revises many of the existing federal programs involving higher education (individual loans and grants, institutional aid, and other higher education access programs). Included in the law is a new program that identifies seventeen professions of national need, including certain SLPs and audiologists, making them eligible for loan forgiveness. This program has not received any funding to date.

When will the Secretary issue regulations and when will Congress fund the program?

Currently, the Obama Administration has not announced any plans to issue regulations for this program. Authorizing committees that create, revise, and terminate federal programs but do NOT provide funding for them created this loan forgiveness program. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees play this critical role. ASHA will be requesting funding for this program for the 2010 federal fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2009.

Is Congress likely to fund this program?

It is unlikely that this program will receive any or even a modest amount of funding in the near future. There are many demands and constraints on the federal budget. Congress and the Obama Administration will weigh all of these priorities and determine which ones will receive funding.

If this program is funded, how do I know if I qualify?

For speech-language pathologists (SLPs), P.L. 110-315 stipulates that you must:

  • be employed full-time as a speech-language pathologist, in an eligible preschool program or a school that has a large number of students in poverty; and
  • have, at a minimum, a graduate degree in speech-language pathology or communication sciences and disorders.

For audiologists, P.L. 110-315 stipulates that you must:

  • be employed full-time as an audiologists, in an eligible preschool program or a school that has a large number of students in poverty; and
  • have, at a minimum, a graduate degree in audiology or communication sciences and disorders.

I do not work in a school, am I still eligible?

No, you are not eligible under this program. The available evidence indicates that shortages of qualified SLPs and audiologists are most severe in school-based settings. While shortages may exist in other settings either the evidence is limited, cannot substantiate it, or other factors prohibit public funds being used for loan forgiveness.

How do I find out if the school that I work in is a high-need school under this program?

Review the information on the federal student aid Web site.

How much of my loans would this program forgive?

P.L. 110-315 states that for each school, academic, or calendar year of full-time employment that an eligible borrower completes on or after the date of enactment [the day the president signed the bill in to law, 8/14/2008] of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the Secretary of Education shall forgive not more than $2,000 of the student loan obligation of the borrower that is outstanding after the completion of each such school, academic, or calendar year of employment, respectively. Moreover, the Secretary shall not forgive more than $10,000 taken together for any borrower and no borrower shall receive loan forgiveness under this section for more than five years of service.

What kinds of loans are eligible under this program for forgiveness?

All federal Stafford FFEL and Direct loans except for PLUS loans or consolidation loans are eligible for forgiveness. However, no borrower may receive, for the same service, loan forgiveness under both this program and another federal loan forgiveness program. In essence, there is no double benefit/double dipping allowed.

When can I sign up or apply for loan forgiveness? What form do I need to fill out or Web site I need to visit to begin the forgiveness process?

At this time, there is no form to fill out or Web site to visit. The Secretary of Education needs to promulgate regulations on how this program will run and the program needs to be receiving funding before applications will be accepted.

What happens if Congress does provide funding for this program but not enough for everyone who is eligible?

If funding is available, the Secretary of Education shall grant loan forgiveness on a first-come, first-served basis, and subject to the availability of funding.

I have loans from the 1990s that I am still paying off. Will these loans be eligible for forgiveness?

There are no loan origination restrictions in this program.

Are there other federal loan forgiveness programs that are up and running that I may be eligible for?

In some circumstances, certain speech-language pathologists and audiologists may be eligible for federal loan forgiveness. Please consult the U.S. Department of Education Student Aid Portal Web site for more information. ASHA certified school-based SLPs and audiologists have been eligible for Federal Perkins Loan forgiveness since 1994.

I want to look at the bill and see exactly what it says, how do I do that?

Go to the Library of Congress, Thomas Legislative Information Web site, and under "Find More Legislation" select "Search Multiple, Previous Congresses," check "110th Congress," type in "College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008" in the search box, and hit the "Search" button.

Whom can I contact for more information?

  • Neil Snyder, ASHA's Director of Federal Advocacy, at 800-498-2071, ext. 5614 or nsnyder@asha.org.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
    Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
    TTY users (for the hearing-impaired) can call 1-800-730-8913.
    Callers in locations without access to 800 numbers may call 1-319-337-5665 (this is not a toll free number).

How can I find out if my state runs a loan forgiveness program for educators?

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has a Web page on state teacher loan forgiveness programs where you can select your state to learn more.

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