Clergy Serve the Public Too!

Do not exclude America’s Clergy from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
 

Background:

On January 31, 2012, without warning or conversation, the Department of Education made clergy ineligible to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF was meant to encourage Americans to pursue higher education and public service by guaranteeing that long-time employees of 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations would have their federal education loans forgiven after 10-years of public service employment. 

Material issued by the Department of Education on January 31, 2012 introduced new language that now restricts participation in PSLF and effectively excludes clergy from participating in the program.

 

Take Action:

Sign the petition to President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan by clicking here.

Write to Secretary Duncan - click here to find a letter you can customize, print, and put in the mail.

 

Talking Points:
 

1. Congress never meant to exclude clergy.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program was created in 2007 as part of the “College Cost Reduction and Access Act.” Neither the language of the law, nor any of the relevant statutes and regulations associated with it, exclude clergy from PSLF. The new material issued by the Department of Education in January 2012 unfairly introduces additional criteria that are not part of the law voted on by Congress. Congress could have chosen to exclude clergy, and such a restriction into the law, but it did not. 

2. DoE regulations do not exclude clergy.

On October 23, 2008, the Department of Education issued final regulations regarding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. These regulations clarify that eligibility for PSLF requires full-time employment at “a public service organization”—meaning either a “non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code” OR “private organization” that is not engaged in, among other things, religious activities. The religious restriction applies ONLY to “private organizations” NOT to 501(c)(3) non-profits. According to these regulations, clergy who are employed full-time at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization ARE eligible for PSLF.

Only in the most recent “Fact Sheet” and “Employment Certification Form” (issued by the DoE on January 31, 2012) changed these eligibility criteria and excluded clergy from PSLF. These materials clearly contradict the DoE’s own regulations.

3. The government already recognizes the important public service clergy provide.

Seminary students are eligible for, and routinely receive, Federal Stafford loans during their studies, and then, after ordination/graduation are eligible to consolidate their loans through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Furthermore, the US tax code makes no distinction between religious and non-religious non-profits, both are equally classified as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. By extending these benefits to seminarians and religious organizations, the Federal Government already recognizes the important public service clergy provide. It is unjust for the government to help seminarians in their education by providing Stafford loans and Direct Loan consolidation and then to exclude them from PSLF at a time when they are most at need and are engaged in performing important social services.   

4. Clergy serve the public too.

Clergy of all faiths (ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and priests) provide an invaluable service to the public, often acting as “first responders” for the most vulnerable in our communities. At a time when local, state, and federal governmental agencies increasingly rely on religious institutions to provide much-needed social services, it is unjust to penalize public service professionals who choose to do this work in a faith-based setting. 

 

Press: 
 

  1. Huffington Post
  2. Chronicle of Philanthropy
  3. Washington Post: On Faith

 

 


Share this

keep current
connect
with us:
Get Inspired
Take Action
Find us on
Facebook
RECENT POSTS

The deadline is approaching for comments to the EPA for their new power plant rules to limit carbon pollution from power plants by at least 30%. Take action and tell the EPA to cut carbon pollution.

Stand in solidarity with faith leaders and Sign the petition: After Ferguson, we must change police and court practices in St. Louis County

Immigration may have disappeared from the headlines, but every day 1000 families are still being torn apart by deportations. So a group of churches, synagogues, and faith communities are taking emergency moral action for their neighbors like Luis.

A special webinar for the Sanctuary movement on how to using online tools to enhance your offline organizing and campaigns, featuring Groundswell's Isaac Luria and Michelle Reyf.

Growing up in a small Baptist church in Texas, I'm used to faith making me laugh, cry, feel God’s love, and want to dance. Coincidentally, all these posts do that too. Click, enjoy, and share!

A special webinar for the Sanctuary movement on how to speak powerfully and prophetically through the media, featuring Macky Alston from Auburn Seminary.

Inspiring faithful action to heal and repair the world