TRENTON -A measure sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden that establishes the “Social Services Student Loan Redemption Act,” to help forgive student loan burdens of up to $20,000 over four years for full-time direct health care professionals was signed into law today by Governor Richard J. Codey.
“For many recent graduates, student loan debt is a burden that could prevent them from working in the State’s social services positions because of the lower salaries offered in the public sector,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “State social work programs are not able to offer employees the higher salaries they would earn in private social work programs, so we have to offer candidates a different incentive. This measure allows the State to better compete with the private sector for qualified social workers.”
The Senator’s measure, S-2334, directs the Higher Education Assistance Authority, the Commissioner of Human Services and the Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission to establish a loan forgiveness program for full-time employees working as direct care professionals at certain public facilities and non-profits. Loan redemption will be granted upon completion of a program-approved course of study at a four-year university. Of the total funding allotted to fund this program, 80% will go toward undergraduate loan funding and 20% will go toward graduate school loans.
Eligible applicants are required to: be New Jersey residents and reside in the State during their time in the program; have attained a bachelor’s or master’s degree, within one year prior to being hired as a full-time health care professional at a qualified facility; and have an outstanding student loan balance, without being in default on any loans. The maximum annual loan forgiveness amount will be limited to $5,000, which includes principal and interest for loan expenses. Program participants will undergo yearly evaluations to ensure their satisfactory completion of approved employment for the year.
Each year roughly 3,000 New Jerseyans graduate from four-year colleges with social service degrees, but the State has a hard time filling job vacancies and retaining qualified workers because of the low wages associated with social service agencies. Many workers opt to work in the private sector where they are able to earn more.