Sasha Honig posted an articleYou can help by speaking out. see more
(Repost from the AVMA@Work blog)
Student debt is a primary concern across the veterinary profession. While there is no simple fix for this complex issue, Congress has several opportunities to take actions that could help alleviate the burden of student debt for veterinarians. Dr. Kent McClure, chief government relations officer for the AVMA, joined us to discuss the outlook for higher education legislation in the 115th Congress.
What are some of the key legislative opportunities to address student debt in the coming year?
Because student loans are a complex financial issue, there are several different avenues through which Congress could address student debt. The most likely routes are through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act next year or through budget reconciliation. Additionally, federal lawmakers have introduced more than 100 bills related to student loans and financial aid. There also are opportunities to address student debt through tax reform.
What are the best outcomes for the veterinary profession with these pieces of legislation?
The AVMA has a key set of higher education principles that we’re looking to see implemented as Congress moves forward with higher education legislation, and each principle aims to reduce the student debt burden facing veterinarians. A few examples of what we’d like to see Congress do are eliminate origination fees, lower interest rates, maintain or expand the federal student loan borrowing limits, and increase awareness of income-driven repayment plans. You can read all of our principles in our Higher Education Act issue brief.
As far as stand-alone legislation is concerned, one of our key priorities is passing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act. This legislation would change the tax code to expand loan repayment opportunities for food animal and public health veterinarians who practice in federally-designated shortage areas. The principles of this legislation could potentially be implemented through tax reform as well.
It seems there are a lot of legislative opportunities to improve the student loan environment for veterinarians. Is there any legislation that could worsen student debt prospects for veterinarians?
Definitely. There are a few proposals that the AVMA opposes, and one of the biggest threats is the reduction or elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Lawmakers have been eyeing this program for cuts for several years now, and the effort gained momentum this fall. Unfortunately, there are several different avenues through which this loan forgiveness could be cut. The appropriations process poses a big danger to this program, as lawmakers could choose to reduce or eliminate its funding. The program also could be at risk during budget reconciliation and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. There is also a stand-alone bill that would cap loan repayment under the program at $57,500.
The good news is that Congress is being very responsive to the concerns of our members around this issue. They’ve received thousands of letters from the veterinary community, and we’re making sure they’re hearing the stories of veterinarians who are counting on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Congress really values hearing from our veterinary constituents, and the efforts of the AVMA and our members are making an effective case for this program.
What can veterinarians and veterinary students do to help?
As I mentioned, members of Congress are very responsive to their constituents, and they are particularly interested in what veterinarians have to say on student loan issues. I encourage veterinarians and veterinary students to write or call their legislators about student loan issues that impact them. The AVMA’s Congressional Advocacy Network website makes it very easy to look up contact information for your lawmakers and quickly send them editable, pre-written letters on key issues, so it’s a great resource to use for advocacy.
AVMA also provides opportunities for members who want to become more involved in the political process. Students can spend a month in Washington as government relations externs, and veterinarians at any stage in their career can apply to serve as an AVMA congressional fellow, providing scientific counsel to a congressional office. I also encourage members to consider joining our Political Action Committee, which is a terrific way to amplify our advocacy efforts. You can visit avma.org/advocacy/getinvolved to learn more about these opportunities.
Sasha Honig posted an articleYour assistance could help preserve this program. see more
(Repost from the AVMA@Work Blog)
More than 110 national and state animal health organizations have joined forces with the AVMA to urge Congress to preserve an important program that provides debt relief to veterinarians and others working in the nonprofit and public sectors.
This broad animal health coalition, representing nearly all major veterinary groups, is mobilizing in response to efforts by some lawmakers to reduce or eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
Led by the AVMA, and with key support from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the coalition sent a letter Monday to the chairpersons and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The letter highlights the value of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to the veterinary profession; we encourage you to read the whole letter here.
The PSLF program forgives loans for individuals who have worked 10 years in the nonprofit or public sector. Lawmakers have been eyeing this program for cuts for several years now, and the AVMA communicates frequently with Congress on this issue.
As Congress works through the budget process and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, there are many points at which this program could be cut back or eliminated. The good news is that Congress is being responsive to letters and stories from veterinarians who support the program. So far, nearly 1,900 of you have contacted lawmakers about this program – and that number continues to increase each day!
Heading into the winter, it’s important that we keep up our momentum in support of this program. If you’re concerned about Public Service Loan Forgiveness, we encourage you to personalize and send this letter to your lawmakers in support of the program. You also can share your PSLF story here, so that our government relations team can share your stories in meetings with lawmakers. If you’d like to learn more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and legislation that could affect it, you can read our issue brief.
ArticleComments accepted through Feb. 13, 2017. see more
(Repost from the AVMA@Work blog)
With student debt for 2015 veterinary graduates averaging more than $140,000, it’s clear that debt is an important issue for the veterinary community. Bearing that in mind, veterinarians may be interested in possible changes to paperwork involved in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives the remaining balance on a borrower’s direct loans after the individual has made 120 monthly payments while working for a qualifying employer. These qualifying organizations include governmental bodies and some not-for-profit organizations.
The U.S. Department of Education is considering changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness application, and veterinarians have a chance to comment on these changes to ensure this application is as effective as possible.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was created in 2007, and the earliest cohort of eligible borrowers will qualify for forgiveness on or after Oct. 1, 2017. To apply for the loan forgiveness under the program, individuals must be employed full-time at a qualifying organization, and must make 120 monthly payments toward their loans during this employment. Qualifying employers include:
- Governmental agencies at any level
- Not-for-profit organizations that have a 501(c)(3) tax exemption
- Other not-for-profit organizations that provide certain qualifying public services
- AmeriCorps or Peace Corps programs
To have loans forgiven under this program, one must complete an Employment Certification Form. Now, the Department of Education is creating an application for forgiveness and also revising the Employment Certification Form with the goal of increasing consistency and understanding.
The Department of Education is accepting comments on these changes through Feb. 13, 2017. The AVMA plans to submit comments to the agency, and we encourage interested veterinarians to submit your own comments as well. You can comment directly to the Education Department on this page. When commenting, here are some questions that you might consider:
- Have you tried to use the program but had problems with the paperwork?
- Do you have suggestions on how to improve the program?
- Could the Department of Education improve the quality, utility and clarity of the information collected?
- Are there ways to make the process easier for respondents?
The AVMA’s formal comments to the Department of Education on this topic will aim to enhance the effectiveness of this program for veterinarians. We look forward to seeing you speak up as well.
ArticleSummit attendees seek ways to alleviate student debt. see more
Student debt is an increasingly critical issue for the entire veterinary profession, and how to reduce that debt and improve the overall economic picture for young veterinarians was the focus of a summit held at Michigan State University last week. Summit attendees put forth a number of recommendations, including streamlining curricula, increasing scholarship opportunities, boosting starting salaries, lobbying federal lawmakers for legislation to lower interest rates on student loans and creating a national plan for reducing the debt-to-income ratio.
The summit, organized jointly by the AVMA, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, brought together approximately 180 individuals from across the veterinary spectrum. The collective goal over the three-day summit was to agree on specific strategies to address the many facets of this complex challenge, with the goal of reducing the debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is an indicator of the financial health of the veterinarian entering the profession, and it currently stands at about 2:1, representing a level of educational debt approximately twice the level of starting income.
For more information on the summit and the next steps that will be taken to help reduce student debt, please read the press release posted in the AVMA online Press Room.