Week Seventeen: Donors Choose

As part of the proposed $10.6 billion cuts to the Department of Education, the White House is planning to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which currently erases student loan debts of public sector and nonprofit workers after 10 years of service and on-time loan payments. The program, started in 2007, uses debt forgiveness to compensate workers who seek nonprofit and government employment in lieu of the generally higher-paying private sector business jobs. Some of the common occupations among the 500,000 Americans who have signed up for the program include social workers, librarians, public defenders, teachers, and primary care doctors. The proposal would end the program for new borrowers, so those already paying off loans would still have their loans forgiven after meeting the program requirements.

This week, we donated to Mrs. Ward’s classroom at the Dawson Orman Education Center in Louisville, KY through the nonprofit organization Donors Choose, a website that allows individuals to donate directly to public-school classroom projects. Seventeen years ago, Donors Choose was founded by a public high school teacher in the Bronx named Charles Best, who found himself photocopying the one copy of Little House on the Prairie he could procure for his students. He thought about all the money that he and his fellow teachers spent on books, art supplies, and other materials for their classrooms, and came up with the idea for a website where teachers could post classroom project requests, and donors could choose the ones they wanted to support. Our donation to Mrs. Ward’s classroom helped fund a writing center learning station for her young students in the Head Start program, and our donation was matched by sponsor PNC Grow Up Great.

We believe that people who demonstrate a commitment to nonprofit and government careers through years of service should have an opportunity for student loan forgiveness. After all, to get a job in these fields, one needs higher education, which often requires taking out student loans. These people should not be punished for going into the public sector, taking lower-paying jobs that make it more difficult to pay off their loans. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is rigorous, requiring 10 full years of service and on-time loan payments. This program is a huge financial help to so many of our citizens working in vitally important jobs for the health and vitality of our nation: teachers, social workers, public defenders, primary care doctors, librarians. Where would we be without them? Why take away this program that is meant to demonstrate a small sliver of gratitude for their service?