Adjunct Faculty Would Get Student Debt Wiped Away Under New Proposal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16:  Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks at a press conference after successfully pushing a bipartisan bi
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks at a press conference after successfully pushing a bipartisan bill through the U.S. Senate to restart the government and raise the debt limit at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The bill still needs to be approved by the house. If the bill is signed into law, it will fund the government until January 15, 2014 and allow the government to pay bills until February 7, 2014. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) dropped a new bill Thursday that would potentially eliminate thousands of dollars in student loan debt for adjunct professors.

Citing that more than half of all faculty at public and non-profit colleges and universities in his home state of Illinois work on a part-time basis, Durbin said many adjuncts are currently ineligible for the federal student loan forgiveness program since they aren't employed on a full-time basis.

"As their budgets have tightened, colleges and universities have become increasingly reliant upon part-time adjunct faculty who face low pay, few if any benefits, and minimal job security," Durbin said in a statement. "The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt. It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues."

The program Durbin wants to open up for adjuncts is called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Borrowers who pay 120 qualifying payments -- or 10 years of on time checks -- while working in government service or the non-profit sector, like at a university, are potentially eligible to have some or all of their federal student loans erased.

Nationwide, colleges have indeed shifted toward using more adjunct faculty, and fewer full-time tenured professors. Adjuncts often earn around $25,000 annually without benefits.

"As a part-time, temporary worker with a crushing amount of school debt, I know how important student debt reform is for ensuring education retains the promise of social mobility for both me and my fellow adjuncts and the students we teach," Marga Ryersbach, an adjunct who teaches in New York, said in a statement released by Adjunct Action, a group working to unionize part-time faculty. "I'm pleased that Senator Durbin is working to make sure we have access to a program that helps correct the imbalances wrought by huge amounts of education debt."