The labor union that represents faculty at the state's public colleges and universities is calling for the approval of a bill meant to ease the student debt burden in New York.
Student loan forgiveness has remained a debated topic on the national level as President Joe Biden's administration considers the scope of a potential move meant to reduce or potentially erase the money owed.
“Every New Yorker deserves access an affordable, world-class higher education, but we know that all too often, programs built to aid students present unnecessary complications,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “This bill addresses several well-documented barriers to entry to PSLF, ranging from inconsistent program term definitions to confusion about program eligibility, which impede New Yorkers’ ability to participate in this vital program."
The measure backed by the United University Professions would give full-time employment status to public employees who work at least 30 hours per week and expand eligibility for the federal Public Student Loan Forgiveness program. It is also meant to provide debt relief, cancellation or discharge. It would not be subject to taxation or requite the debt relief be reported on individual income tax returns.
The bill is being pushed in the closing days of the legislative session and is backed by state Sen. Kevin Thomas and Assemblyman Harvey Epstein.
"While the program is federal, there is a lot we can do in our state to make sure New Yorkers can get their debt forgiven," Epstein said. "From applying a multiplier to teachers’ in-class hours so that hours worked outside of class are more accurately reflected, to ensuring that agencies can transmit paperwork on behalf of workers to the federal government, our legislation will help more New Yorkers get their loans forgiven faster."
The federal loan forgiveness program is meant to incentivize public service work by canceling a portion of a borrowers' federal student loans. Borrowers are required to be full-time workers of an eligible public service employer.
“New York’s public servants had our backs throughout the pandemic – it’s time we return the favor," Thomas said. "This legislation creates a clear path to student loan forgiveness for New Yorkers who have made a significant impact in their communities and for those who serve their country, including teachers, veterans, and first responders."