Legislative Advocacy-Social Work Loan Forgiveness

Reauthorization of Social Work Loan Forgiveness – The NYS Social Work Loan Forgiveness Program was originally established in 2006. In 2011, NASW-NYS policy staff secured a five year renewal (through 2016) in the annual amount of 978,000. The program is administered by the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) and is granted to social workers employed in identified geographic and service delivery high need areas.

Expansion of the Social Work Loan Forgiveness Program – Throughout the fall of 2013 and early winter of 2014, NASW-NYS worked with the Governors staff, legislative members and their staff (in the context of state budget negotiations) to increase the current social work loan forgiveness program by 50% and expand eligibility to social work residents in each county, as opposed to limiting it to the 28 counties currently considered “high need.” While final (and often tense) negotiations unfolded at the capitol, many additional appropriation requests fell off the proverbial table. However, when the dust cleared, expansion of the social work loan forgiveness program, albeit to a lesser degree, remained intact – with a 25% increase in funds. Thank you to Senator Kenneth LaValle for his commitment to expanding this program. Senator LaValle and his staff have been there time and time again for the profession of social work.

The final agreement also included a decision to re-examine the current formula for determining program eligibility. As such, NASW-NYS staff and our partner organizations, NASW-NYC and the New York State Association of Deans of Schools of Social Work worked closely to identify variables that would assist in the development of a formula that would both, expand the eligibility pool and ensure we are channeling social workers to the highest need areas. After an exhaustive process of examining state specific demographic data points including county and city specific rates of poverty, social work licensee distribution per county, debt to salary ratio’s, federally identified high need areas and shortage provider rates, the conclusion we reached is to request that New York State’s Social Work Loan Forgiveness Program utilize the formula employed the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program; a method driven by the Health Resources Services Administration (an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services), which uses census data to identify medically underserved areas and populations, as well as health professional shortage areas. We continue to work with the Governor’s staff on this initiative and will keep you posted as it evolves.