Talk to almost any social worker and you will likely hear that the expected career income was not the primary driver of their decision to choose social work as a profession. While most social workers are motivated by their desire to help others, income still plays an undeniably critical role in one’s quality of life, including paying off student debt.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, “As many as 37 percent of public four-year school graduates have too much debt to manage on a social work salary.” And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median yearly salary for social workers is roughly $46,000.
For Limestone Bachelor of Social Work students who are nearing graduation and their debt obligations, we’ve put together a list of a few loan forgiveness programs to keep in mind for the future.
National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program offers $50,000 to licensed clinical social workers to repay student loans in exchange for two years of serving in a community-based site in a high-need designed Health Professional Shortage Area. To learn more, students can visit the Loan Repayment page on NHSC’s website.
College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 provides loan forgiveness for any remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. This may include government organizations at any level (federal, state, local) and non-profit organizations that are tax-exempt. To learn more about this program or find out if you qualify, contact the U.S. Department of Education.
Higher Education Reauthorization and Opportunity Act of 2008 provides up to $2,000 per year, not to exceed $10,000 maximum over a five-year period. To qualify, applicants must be employed full time in an occupational area of “national need”. According to an article on social worker.com, this includes child welfare workers “with a degree in social work or a related field with a focus on serving children and families and who are employed full time in public or private child welfare services.”
Loan Forgiveness for Volunteer Programs
Volunteers of nonprofit organizations such as AmeriCorps or Peace Corps can be eligible for loan forgiveness. For example, Peace Corps volunteers may apply for deferment of Stafford, Perkins, direct and consolidation loans and a partial cancellation of Perkins Loans. Volunteers with Perkins loans may be eligible for 15-70 percent cancellation benefit. For more information, students can visit Peace Corps Student Loan Information page.
North Carolina State Loan Repayment Program offers up to $30,000 to mental health professionals for two years of service, serving in rural and underserved areas. Licensed clinical social workers working in qualifying sites, who are licensed to practice in the state where they will work, can apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or Lawful Permanent Residents. To learn more, visit the North Carolina Health and Human Services website.