COLUMBUS – State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) today gave sponsor testimony before the Ohio House Finance Committee on House Bill (HB) 520. The bill would help qualified Ohio workers apply for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program by establishing the Navigator Pilot Program under the Chancellor of Higher Education.
“Coronavirus will only worsen the student debt crisis for everyone. By creating this pilot program, we can begin to attract and retain talented, high-quality workers for vital public services right here in Ohio,” said Rep. Sweeney. “We can’t afford to leave any federal dollars on the table when Ohioans already owe over $57 billion dollars in student debt, when Ohio has the 6th highest student debt per capita of any state, and when our borrowers already default on their student loans 11 percent of the time.”
Sweeney’s legislation would:
- Establish a pilot program that
- Contracts with organizations or individuals who have demonstrated experience with student debt forgiveness to assist with the program;
- Selects a community college, state university, and a public agency or employer whose employees may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program;
- Advises public employees on completion of U.S. Department of Education forms;
- Provides information to public employees regarding other loan forgiveness programs for which they may qualify;
- Helps public employees understand their rights and responsibilities under the terms of student loans.
- Make an appropriation of up to $200,000 to run the pilot program;
- Submit a report to the General Assembly, assessing the effectiveness of the pilot program and the possibility of a statewide navigator program.
In her testimony, Sweeney responded to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education showing that less than one percent of applicants have the remainder of their student loans forgiven after ten years of service:
“Those applicants are social workers in Belmont County and nurses in Cuyahoga County; they are the corrections officers in Marion County and librarians in Allen County; they are public defenders in Summit County, and yes even the aide in Franklin County who have all dedicated their lives to work that is absolutely vital to a thriving Ohio,” said Rep. Sweeney. “Too many Ohioans make the choice to serve the public based on this program, only to be rejected after ten years of service. They put their service above financial gain, and we can help them.”
The bill now awaits further hearings in the House Finance Committee.