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02/07/2023 01:34 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20210&cosponId=36830
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: February 7, 2022 05:31 PM
From: Senator Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Student Loan Forgiveness for School-Based Mental Health Professionals
 
I will soon introduce a bill creating a Student Loan Forgiveness Program that incentives individuals to pursue careers as certified school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists in the Commonwealth.

At my recent Senate Democratic Policy Hearing on school staffing shortages, I heard testimony that school staff regularly juggle multiple jobs to pay down their debt – or too often, end up leaving the profession. I also heard about the desperate need for more school-based mental health professionals – something students regularly share with me as a top priority for them as well.

Student loans play a significant role in the financial lives of many educators. According to a 2020 National Education Association survey, nearly half of educators have taken out a student loan to fund their own education, with the average total amount standing at $55,800. Given the impact of institutional racism in financial institutions, housing, and employment, Black educators are even more likely to borrow and carry higher student debt.

Modeled after an existing program within the Department of Health, this bill will strengthen the pipeline of school-based mental health professionals by providing incentives for individuals to pursue higher education and careers as certified school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists in the Commonwealth.

Given both the current crisis and longstanding challenges Pennsylvania faces in attracting and retaining school staff, it is my hope that by establishing this student loan forgiveness program, we can invest in the next generation of school-based mental health professionals that Pennsylvania desparately needs.



Introduced as SB1257