Congressman calls for student loan forgiveness plan to apply to faith-based workers

Justin Udo
September 16, 2019 - 3:28 pm
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Pennsylvania congressman is trying to revamp one of the country's student loan forgiveness plans — starting with a little faith.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA 2nd District) wants to expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) for religious clerics because many of them, he said, are public servants who work with the poorest communities and people who need the most help.

"Yet they can't qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program even though the very definition of what they're doing is public service," he added.

The current PSLF program applies to public servants like teachers, social workers and military personnel who have held their positions for at least 10 years. After that time — and 120 qualifying loan payments — the program erases their remaining balances.

Boyle wants to extend the program to clergy of all religions and employees of faith-based nonprofits.

"I want to make sure we ensure those who are on the frontlines in our society are also eligible for this noble program," he continued. "I fully support separation of church and state, but let's be clear: What I'm proposing here does not in anyway violate that separation."

Despite leading in the field of ministry for more than 20 years, Rev. Dr. Wayne Wethers, from Vision of Hope Baptist Church in Jenkintown, has not been able to eliminate his student loan debt.

He believes this legislation would help dwindling seminary numbers and encourage more people to pursue religious studies without the burden of debt.

"This would encourage many who have a calling into ministry to pursue a theological education that would benefit the church, themselves, and the community," he said.

Boyle, who also chairs the PSLF Caucus, said the current Department of Education is failing those looking for loan forgiveness. 

"We desperately need reform to the way that this program is being administered," he said. "We have a real opportunity here to make sure that certain problems with the program are fixed."

Boyle believes this legislation will get enough bipartisan support to pass into law.