TRENTON – Senator Fred Madden today introduced legislation to implement a loan forgiveness program worth up to $20,000 to college graduates who take direct-care social services jobs in New Jersey.
“We need to provide incentives to attract full-time professionals to take on the difficult jobs of helping the poor, working in mental health facilities and caring for children with disabilities,” said Senator Madden, D-Glouceser and Camden. “This program is designed to attract the very best to begin careers in social services where current shortages in professional help are projected to continue.”
Too many young college graduates are forced into accepting higher paying jobs in response to pressure to pay off college loans, Senator Madden said.
First announced by Acting Governor Codey in his State of the State address in January, the proposed loan forgiveness program would enable college graduates to have up to $5,000 in student loans forgiven for each full year of approved employment up to a total of $20,000 for four continuous years of service.
“This program will encourage college graduates to fill key spots in New Jersey’s social services fields in return for help paying off the expenses of a four-year undergraduate education,” Senator Madden said.
“With this program, we can respond with real incentives to the critical need New Jersey has to find direct-care professionals throughout our social services system,” Senator Madden said.
The measure would appropriate $5 million to the State’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to implement the “Social Services Student Loan Redemption Program.”
The positions eligible for the loan forgiveness program would be professional staff jobs at State facilities operated by the Department of Human Services, the Juvenile Justice Commission, a county psychiatrict facility, a veterans’ memorial home operated by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, or by a nonprofit agency that provides social services to the State.
College graduates would be required to find an eligible position within one year of graduating from a four-year college. In addition, they would be required to live in New Jersey for the duration of their participation in the loan forgiveness program.
Services to be provided by the participants would include counseling; physical, occupational, recreational or speech therapy; case management; vocational training; assistance with activities of daily living; medication management; budgeting assistance; addiction treatment services; nutrition, and other clinical services, according to Senator Madden’s bill.
The bill will be reviewed in the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before facing a floor vote in the Senate.