President Trump has proposed to increase the budget in certain areas. Such as, increases for the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs. We can agree that these increases are necessary. But at what cost? Other areas that should have at least remained the same have suffered a great loss. Loan forgiveness is one of those areas.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Education in America is already so expensive! With President Trump’s proposed budget, education funding will have an estimated 10% reduction from 2019’s budget. The proposed plan is to remove several existing programs including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

PSLF was a creation to benefit employees of the government and non-profit organizations. The government forgave student debts for these people after ten years of consistent payments. Government and non-profit employees already receive low wages compared to employees in other professions. People who fit that criteria are teachers, prosecutors and public defenders, and military and local public service personnel. Those three types of employees are vital for our civil duties.

Teachers

Teachers already receive low incomes in New Jersey where the cost of living is among the highest in the nation. The loss of Public Service Loan Forgiveness would be especially difficult. I can personally recall the two times during my elementary schooling when teachers went on strike. They wanted an increase in wages and education budgets within the public-school system. When President George W. Bush passed the PDLF program, it allowed teachers peace of mind. While their wages are low compared to other careers, they at least could at least rely on certain benefits. For example, having student loan forgiveness after ten years of service.

Public Defenders

Public defender’s and prosecutors are also at a disadvantage with this proposed budget cut. Both careers already get paid less than a private attorney would normally get paid. With this proposed budget cut, lost incentives for those careers would lead to a decrease in employees over time. Would you want to work for low wages defending people? Or would you rather work for a private firm with a higher salary? What we fail to realize, without a prosecutor we cannot defend our civil rights within a court room. Who will defend us, the People, when a mass murderer is up for trial? Who will defend the rights of rape victims when a rapist is on trial?

On the flipside, many people get wrongly or unfairly convicted, who will defend them when they are up for trial? If they cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney, how will they receive the proper defense court? Public defenders are important as all Americans have a right to an attorney even if we cannot afford one! With a cut in PSLF, we would reducing the reasons why a graduate should apply for employment in the court system. Rather, they would work for a private firm or even start their own private practice.

Police

PSLF cuts would also affect military and local public safety personnel and prospective employees. Many people enlist or join the police force for many of the education incentives, PSLF being one of them. How will our streets be protected; how will we receive first response if we do not have employees readily available? As I mentioned before, the Department of Defense has received an increase in budget. But will that increase compensate for the monthly student loans our public service employees will have to repay? These are items our prospective and existing personnel will have to consider when enlisting or reenlisting. What is the point of us spending so much money on Defense if there won’t be people protecting this country? Our local government is at stake. Eventually policemen and other first responders will have to seek better employment to increase their monthly income to pay off those student loans.

New Jersey Residents

How does this effect New Jersey residents? What about Morris, Union, Middlesex and Somerset County residents specifically? The truth is, those of us residing in New Jersey will suffer if programs like the PSLF are eliminated. It is hard enough to live in New Jersey, let alone on government, or public service pay. Public servants in Morris, Union, Middlesex and Somerset Counties are living and working in areas that have a median household income of over $100,000 per year for a family of only 3 people. The average public-school teacher earns about $68,000. Therefore, there is no choice but to have a 2-income household in order to just get by in New Jersey. The benefit of having programs like the PSLF is that it attracts and keeps better talent in our school system, our public defender’s offices and all other areas of public service.

With the student loan crisis at staggering levels, something else need to be done… not eliminating helpful programs that reward our public servants.

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