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Union-backed law expands loan relief for many adjuncts

By Sylvia Saunders



housands of adjunct faculty and other part-time educators now qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness under a union-backed law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this fall.

In a big win for union activists, the law expands eligibility under state labor law by giving educators credit for work outside the classroom. The law would apply a multiplier to faculty’s in-class hours so that they can meet the federal 30-hour full-time definition and qualify for PSLF.

PSC/CUNY President James Davis, Genevieve LaForge and Gov. Kathy Hochul
Dave Sanders/PSC
Adjuncts like Genevieve LaForge (center) have more access to loan forgiveness under a union-backed law. With her are Gov. Kathy Hochul and PSC/CUNY President James Davis.
Now, those who regularly teach three classes per semester will likely qualify for loan forgiveness and those who combine their teaching with other public service work will also have an easier time qualifying.

“Many adjuncts work the equivalent of full-time but have been overlooked because only their classroom hours were counted,” said Professional Staff Congress President James Davis, who represents about 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY. “This legislation recognizes the full-time work performed by many so-called part-time faculty.”

“This will be an incredible benefit for our contingent and adjunct members who were carved out of the program,” said United University Professions President Fred Kowal, representing about 40,000 faculty and staff at SUNY. “This law means the process is streamlined and expanded to those who need this help the most.”

PSLF erases the federal student loan debt of educators and other public service workers after 10 years of service and 120 qualifying monthly payments.

At a bill-signing event at Manhattan Borough Community College, Gov. Hochul highlighted the story of Genevieve LaForge, an adjunct philosophy professor at John Jay College.

LaForge, who came from a low-income family, took out a $74,000 loan so she could study politics and philosophy at Penn State. Since graduating, she’s never missed a payment in 14 years and paid back $69,000 — but because of interest, she still owes $54,000.

“Without this bill I wouldn’t qualify for PSLF and I’d be paying off the loan for another 16 years, “ LaForge said. “I wouldn’t be done paying my loan until I’m 58.”

LaForge said the relief will be life-changing for her. “It makes me whole and will lift what feels like a punishment for being a poor kid who wanted to go to college,” she said.

“That’s the kind of people we’re helping,” Hochul said. In addition to teaching at John Jay, Hochul noted LaForge has dedicated herself to teaching incarcerated individuals at Otisville State Correctional Facility.

“Look at what she’s done” as a public servant, Hochul said. “How many other Genevieves are out there? People shouldn’t have to pay all their adult life for the privilege of a college education.”

Under the new law, educators will meet the 30-hour threshold because they will be credited with 3.35 hours for every hour they are teaching in the classroom. This acknowledges the many long hours adjuncts spend preparing for class, grading student work and meeting with students.