TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden that would establish the “Social Services Student Loan Redemption Program Act,” to help relieve student loan burdens of up to $20,000 over four years for full-time direct health care professionals was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“The State loses a lot of young college graduates because salaries offered by the State cannot compete with the higher wages offered in the private sector,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “We are hoping to encourage these graduates to fill the vacant positions in the State’s social services field by offering to cover the cost of their student loans, which can pose a heavy burden on recent graduates.”
The Senator’s measure, S-2334, would direct 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 would be granted upon completion of a program-approved course of study at a four-year college or university. Eligible applicants would have to: be New Jersey residents and reside in the State during their time in the program; have attained a bachelor’s degree, with one year of experience as a full-time health care professional at a qualified facility; and have an outstanding student loan balance, without being default on any loans. The maximum annual loan forgiveness amount would be limited to $5,000, which would include principal and interest for loan expenses. Program participants would undergo yearly evaluations.
“The State must be able to provide an incentive to attract more full-time professionals to social service jobs,” said Senator Madden.
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.
The measure was now heads to the full Senate for approval.