Monday, September 02, 2013

Gov't Urging 25% of U.S. Workforce to Strive for Student Loan Forgiveness

There's no student loan forgiveness program for mothers who raise their own children, but there is for some daycare workers; and student loan forgiveness may be yours if you work for the government in some capacity, but not if you earn a low salary in the private sector.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is trying to make it easier for people in certain jobs -- teachers, nurses, social workers, police and firefighters, and federal, state and local government workers -- to understand the route to student loan forgiveness.

On Wednesday, the CFPB released a "toolkit" to "empower" school districts and other public service organizations to help their employees understand how they can pay off their student loans or have them forgiven. That toolkit asks employers to pledge that they will talk to their workers about student debt, help them understand their options, and assist them in enrolling in student-loan repayment benefits.

Richmond Public Schools in Virginia and the City of South Bend, Indiana, are the first public employers to sign the pledge.

Up to a quarter of the U.S. workforce is in public service and may be eligible for existing student loan debt-forgiveness programs, the CFPB said.

“Our young people should not be mired in debt because they stir themselves to the call of public service. They deserve to know all their options,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Our toolkit and pledge can be a win-win for employers, the public they serve, and their employees who are facing student debt loads that are imposing unprecedented burdens upon this generation.”

In 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for people with at least ten years of public service who have made 120 consecutive monthly student loan payments.

The CFPB's push for loan forgiveness is part of an effort to attract people to professions that face looming workforce shortages in the years ahead or that offer relatively low starting salaries, making debt repayment more difficult.

The toolkit notes that the U.S. will need 435,000 new teachers by the end of the decade to make up for retiring baby boomers; Likewise, it anticipates a shortage of one million nurses by 2020.

And for new employees in other professions -- police officers, social workers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and soldiers -- the toolkit says low starting salaries and low wage growth "make repaying student debt a daunting obstacle."

The toolkit -- titled the "Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees with Student Loan Repayment" -- offers practical advice to public sector employers and employees, advising that an early start on loan repayment can save a borrower thousands of dollars.

It includes an "action guide' for employers, explaining "the steps they should take" to inform employees about repayment plans. It also includes an action guide for borrowers, telling them what their options are and how to qualify for benefits.

"Qualifying for these benefits can be challenging; but, with a little bit of guidance, employers can help their employees manage their loans, make smart choices early and stay on the path to loan forgiveness. In effect, this is an opportunity for public service employers to provide a valuable fringe benefit at little to no cost," the toolkit says.

Only federal direct loans are eligible for public service loan forgiveness. But employees with other federal loans that originated under the Federal Family
Educational Loan (FFEL) program or the Perkins loan program, may be able to consolidate those loans into a new direct loan to qualify.

CFPB says the "path to loan forgiveness" presents some risks for borrowers: "Because this program is an “all-or-nothing” benefit, it is important for your employees to understand that they must make 120 on-time, qualifying monthly payments in order to obtain loan forgiveness. If your employee leaves public service even one monthly payment short of the required 120, he or she will not be eligible for loan forgiveness and will be required to repay in full."

People employed in the following public service organizations may be eligible for student loan forgiveness:

-- A government organization (including a Federal, State, local or Tribal organization, agency or entity; a public child or family service agency; a Tribal college or university);

-- A non-profit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as long as that employment does not include time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing;

-- A private, non-profit organization (that is not a labor union or a partisan political organization) that provides at least one of the following public services:

Emergency management;
Military service;
Public safety;
Law enforcement;
Public interest law services;
Early childhood education (including licensed or regulated child care, Head Start, and state-funded pre-kindergarten);
Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly;
Public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and      full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health support occupations, as such terms are defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics);
Public education;
Public library services;
School library services; or
Other school-based services;

The CFPB recently estimated that outstanding student loan debt is approaching $1.2 trillion.

As has reported, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, created by the Democrats' Dodd-Frank law, is neither funded by nor accountable to Congress. It is funded directly by the unelected Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Nor was its director, appointed by President Obama, subject to Senate confirmation.


Black Education Alliance: School Quality Now More Important Than Desegregation

A black education group is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to drop a federal lawsuit filed Friday by the Department of Justice (DOJ)  that would halt the expansion of Louisiana’s school voucher program beyond the current 8,000 recipients because doing so will adversely affect low-income minority families who “simply want to get their children into the best possible schools.”

“These are real kids and real families, and this is about the future of these kids,” Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) president Kenneth Campbell told CNSNews Wednesday.

“Fifty years ago, we worked to solve a problem that desperately needed to be solved and the federal government played an important role,” Campbell said on the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic March on Washington. “But in 2013, we need a different strategy and different tactics to ensure that all kids get a quality education.

“I don’t believe we should be saying that you have to stay in these failing schools because it will mess up desegregation efforts,” he continued.  “School quality is much more important at this point in time.”

In a motion filed August 23, DOJ asked a federal court in Louisiana to “permanently enjoin” the state from expanding the voucher program statewide. “As of the date of this filing, the State has awarded vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year to students in at least 22 districts operating under federal desegregation orders, many of which may impede the desegregation process in those districts,” the lawsuit said. (See Brumfield v Dodd - LA.pdf)

DOJ objects to giving vouchers to minority students attending predominantly white public schools because their departure leaves the schools less racially diverse.

“In several districts operating under desegregation orders, the State’s issuance of vouchers increased the racial identifiability of schools because the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended,” according to the lawsuit.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has championed his state's voucher program, called DOJ’s action “shameful,” adding that the Justice Department, “using the same rules that were there to prevent discrimination against minority children, is going after some of these parents and some of these kids and saying, ‘We don’t know that we want to allow you to make this choice.’”

Campbell agreed that the DOJ is on the wrong track when it comes to attacking schools vouchers.

“We are fully aware of Louisiana’s ugly and racist history of working to both undermine and circumvent early desegregation efforts. There is no question that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the state routinely found ways to help ensure that white children would not have to attend racially integrated schools -- including funneling public funds to new, all-white private schools,” Campbell, a founding board member of the D.C.-based group, said in a statement. (See BAEO statement.pdf)

“These acts and many like them were both shameful and appalling and set the stage for important interventions by the United States Government. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to equate the current scholarship program that provides the only avenue for low-income children to escape failing schools to past efforts that supported and encouraged ‘white flight’ 40 years ago.”

“In an ideal world, we could have a system of education that offers both high-quality and racial and economic diversity. However, the reality is that in Louisiana and throughout America, far too many children are forced into failing schools that give them virtually no chance of receiving the type of education they need to allow them to achieve success as adults,” Campbell said.

Launched in New Orleans in 2008 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, The Louisiana Scholarship Program currently has about 8,000 students, 91 percent of whom are members of minority groups, according to the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE). Students use the vouchers to help pay tuition at 117 private and parochial schools that participate in the program.

“To be eligible for a scholarship, students must have a family income of less than 250% of the federal poverty line and must be entering kindergarten or must already be enrolled in a low-performing school with a C, D, or F grade,” according to the DOE, which reported that 86 percent of Louisiana voucher recipients were enrolled in D- or F-rated public schools last year.

The voucher program came under fire in May when standardized test scores remained flat while scores for public schools increased one percent, prompting Education Superintendent John White to remove seven private schools in New Orleans from the program.

Campbell says minority parents are very happy with the vouchers.

“Louisiana’s voucher system is relatively new and we don’t have a ton of longitudinal data, but all the early signs are positive,” Campbell told CNSNews. “Some voucher schools got off on the wrong foot, and I applaud the state superintendent for swiftly acting and not allowing them to add more children. They’re still figuring out accountability, but parental satisfaction is through the roof – it’s incredibly high.”

Jeanne Allen, founder and president of The Center for Education Reform, said in a statement condemning DOJ's action: “The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder chose to file this motion on a day of festivities commemorating the March on Washington can only demonstrate one of two things.

"It either shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of vouchers in creating education opportunities for children, or that he has a corrosive cynicism about the power of educational choice to improve educational performance and to meet parent demands for better outcomes.”


British health service recruits thousands of doctors from Third World... while limits on places deny British students chance to study medicine

Doctors trained in some of the world’s poorest countries where medical qualifications are far less rigorous than in the UK are being recruited by the NHS.

While some of Britain’s brightest students are unable to get on medical courses at home, the Health Service is hiring a third of its doctors from abroad.

Among them are medics from 143 different nations including poverty-stricken states such as Liberia, Belize and the Congo.

Some have studied in countries whose universities have few computers or medical textbooks and trainees are taught from blackboards in cramped classrooms where they are forced to sit on the floor.

Critics said it was ‘bonkers’ that British straight-A students desperate to become doctors were being turned away from medical courses due to government quotas while the NHS recruited staff from remote parts of the world with poor medical training.

The revelation comes amid fears the health service is becoming too dependent on foreign medics.

One senior doctor recently warned that many of them had ‘little or no knowledge and experience of British culture or of our Health Service’.

Professor J Meirion Thomas, a senior cancer specialist who works at the Marsden Hospital in London, wrote in the Spectator magazine: ‘Importing doctors from abroad on a regular and ongoing basis might not be a bad thing if there were any guarantee that the entry criteria to all foreign medical schools were as rigorous and as discriminating as our own.

‘Also, that the quality of teaching and training was always as comprehensive as ours. But too often, it isn’t.’

Foreign doctors are four times more likely to be struck off or suspended than those who trained in this country, while a quarter of all doctors barred from the register qualified abroad – the highest number were from India.

Those who trained outside the EU have to sit an exam on basic medical competence and score 7 out of 7 on an English language test before being allowed on the register.  They must also have gained their medical qualifications in a university ‘approved’ by the General Medical Council.

But the watchdog has only blacklisted eight institutions from the thousands around the world including one in Liberia, one in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, and one in Belize.

Doctors who qualify within the EU are exempt from such checks due to strict ‘freedom of movement’ rules and they are allowed on the register automatically.

There is widespread concern that European doctors are being allowed to work in Britain even if they can barely speak English or have rusty medical skills.

The flaw was tragically exposed in 2008 when a German GP, Dr Daniel Ubani, killed pensioner David Gray by giving him a huge dose of morphine on his first shift as an out-of-hours GP.

Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said: ‘One of the main complaints we hear from patients is the language problems.

‘Often these doctors speak better English than patients but they cannot understand regional dialects and due to their intonation, patients cannot understand them.

‘There are also problems with doctors getting to grips with all the NHS’s policy and guidelines.  ‘They are thrown in at the deep end, and they just don’t know what they are doing.’

The Government plans to appoint senior consultants and GPs to supervise EU doctors and ensure they are up to scratch – on the language and medical skills.

The system is due to come into force next year but doctors say they will not have time to carry out the checks and warn that locums – who do not have a permanent workplace – will slip through the net.

Gill Beer, of the think-tank 2020 health, said the health service needed to ‘tighten up considerably’ on foreign medics.

She added: ‘Where you’ve got night locums, it’s very difficult to get them up to speed and often they are employed when there are less senior staff around.’ GMC figures show that there were 252,553 doctors who trained oversees on the register last year, a rise of 3 per cent from 2011.

India provides the most doctors, with 25,336, while 8,998 are from Pakistan, 5,695 from South Africa, 4,010 from Ireland and 3,936 from Nigeria – where medical training has been heavily criticised.

Another 727 are from Libya – where there are few computers and students learn from blackboards – 383 from Ghana and 123 from Colombia.

Some experts pointed out that the NHS depends on overseas doctors particularly in unpopular specialisms such as A&E and care of the elderly which struggle to recruit staff.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: ‘Overseas doctors have for many years made a valuable and important contribution to the NHS, especially in key services where there has been a historic shortage of UK-trained doctors.

‘This includes consultant posts in emergency care, haematology [blood disorders] and old age psychiatry. Without the support of these doctors many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients.’


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