In 2007 the United States House of Representatives passed “The College Cost Reduction and Access Act.” This act established the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Under the provisions of this program, Federal Direct student loans of those who are in public service. The definition of this is:
PUBLIC LAW 110–84—SEPT. 27, 2007 121 STAT. 801
20 U.S.C. 1087e
‘‘[(m)(1)](B) PUBLIC SERVICE JOB.—The term ‘public service job’ means—
‘‘(i) a full-time job in emergency management, government, military service, public safety, law enforcement, public health, public education (including early childhood education), social work in a public child or family service agency, public interest law services (including prosecution or public defense or legal advocacy in low-income communities at a nonprofit organization), public child care, public service for individuals with disabilities, public service for the elderly, public library sciences, school-based library sciences and other school-based services, or at an organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code; or
‘‘(ii) teaching as a full-time faculty member at a Tribal College or University as defined in section 316(b) and other faculty teaching in high-needs areas, as determined by the Secretary.’’
Under the underlined provision, this would include pastors and teachers in the LCMS, who after being a part of certain repayment plans would have their student loans forgiven after 10 years of repayment. The LCMS even promoted this among our recent graduates. Another LCMS page speaks about the program here.
Two weeks ago, the application for this program finally became available. You can see it online here. What is odd is that the definition of Public Service jobs has changed from the signed law. It seems that the executive branch of our government which has shown so much hostility to the Church lately (see the Hosanna Tabor case, also the Religious Freedom cases that Pres. Harrison has been championing) has now taken aim at our church workers who carry loans.
Here is what language is added:
Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, when determining full-time public service employment at a not-for-profit organization you may not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.
So LCMS teachers and pastors, as well as church workers elsewhere are now not considered “public servants” by the executive branch of our government in spite of what the actual passed and signed Law says. They will have to repay their student loans even though this Law made provision to forgive them.
What can be done? If you have a younger pastor or parochial school teachers in your congregation, you should talk to them about it. I would also suggest contacting your federal legislators as they may not know that their law has been “edited” to exclude church workers from the benefits that originally were given to them. Also pray that our government would once again bow before the Lord who established them, and actually follow what is “King” in this land – The Constitution of the United States.