Many Child Care Workers Are Blocked From Student Loan Forgiveness

Adrienne Briggs holds $55,000 in student loan debt. Each month, she contributes $150 to the debt.

Briggs runs a small child care center out of her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she’s been caring for children for 30 years.

“I am 62 years old and should be looking toward retirement,” Briggs said. But with loans to pay, she doesn’t think that will happen. She kept working on the loans even after the suspension of federal student loans payments meant to provide relief during the pandemic. However, this extra effort did not reduce the debt.

“I’ll probably have to work until 102 to pay them off,” she said.

Child care providers can participate in the federal Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. However, they must work for at least 10 years in a federally or nonprofit-run child care center like Head Start. This leaves child care workers, such as Briggs, who are employed at for-profit centers or selfemployed providers who run in home centers, out of the loop.

Similar rules apply for teachers. Teachers who work for a public or non-profit school are eligible for loan forgiveness. Teachers who work in private schools, however, are not eligible for loan forgiveness. typically qualify because most of these schools are nonprofit organizations — unlike private child care.

Home Grown, which funds and advocates for in home child care centers, says that these child care workers also offer a public benefit.

“What the field is calling for is clarification that early childhood employers and those working in early childhood centers that are for-profit should also be eligible and not required to also prove a nonprofit status in order to receive loan forgiveness,” said Alexandra Patterson, Home Grown’s director of policy and strategy. It’s an argument that the organization made recently to the U.S. Department of Education, which solicited public input this summer on how to improve its loan forgiveness program.

On August 24, the Biden administration announced that Pell Grant recipients would be eligible for $20,000 in loan debt forgiveness. Other borrowers will have $10,000 canceled. Income restrictions will apply to the loan forgiveness. The administration also announced that they will extend a pause to loan payments through the end the year.

According to a Stanford University study, nearly one in five child care workers has student loan debt. survey of 802 providers All across the United States. Cristi Carman, Stanford University’s program manager for the RAPID survey, said that this rate is roughly equal to the student loan debt percentage of Americans.

“What we know about the childcare workforce is that they are dramatically underpaid, they have limited access to benefits, and they have an increasing … instability in their employment,” Carman said. “And many in our survey told us they have multiple jobs.”

On average, child care workers made $11.65 an hour According to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2020 will be the year. Those with a bachelor’s degree who worked in private centers earned a median of $15.41 per hour.

Briggs had a high school diploma when she started watching children out of her home, but over the years, she started going after advanced degrees: first a child care certification, then an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and finally, in 2013, she received her master’s degree.

“With each level, I was learning more and more, and realized there was still so much more to learn about children and families and child care,” Briggs said. “And of course, over the years, all of this has been changing. With the constant changes, [there] was a need for constant knowledge.”

For Briggs, who offers a preschool program for toddlers, getting her master’s degree was about making her in-home program the best it could be. Her business, Lil’ Bits Family Child Care Home, has the highest ranking in Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS program for rating providers.

“I did this for my business and for the children and their families, to be able to offer the best that I could possibly offer,” Briggs said. “I honestly did not think about the debt end of it at the time that I was trying to better my program.”

Briggs’ income has not gone up with her education level — she said she makes about $30,000 per year, depending on how many children are enrolled in her program, which is capped at six. This means that she pays $150 per month instead of $600 to repay her student loans if her income was higher. However, the amount she pays each months barely covers the interest.

“This is just a huge debt over me that I see no end to,” Briggs said.

BriAnne Moline is in a similar position. She started her career in child care as a janitor and was eventually promoted to child care provider. In 2009, she enrolled in an associate’s degree program in early childhood and completed it a few more years later. When financial difficulties forced the center she worked at to shut down unexpectedly, Moline enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree program. Moline also opened her own child care center in Missoula, Montana, at the same time.

This was five years ago. Moline now has 22 children enrolled in her group, in-home child care center. She is set to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next summer, and has about $60,000 in student loan debt.

Because of those loans, she hasn’t been able to buy a house; instead, she runs her center from her rented home, a situation that often comes with challenges of its own.

“I have tried to apply for housing loans and things like that just to make my children’s future and my business’ future more stable, and I’m always disqualified because of those student loans,” Moline said.

Annie Dade, a policy analyst for the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, said that student loan debt is not the only problem facing the industry in the midst of collapse. The industry’s challenges have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic: A jobs tracker The CSCCE has produced data that shows that child care employment was at its lowest level as of July. 8.4 percent lower than it was Before the pandemic. Faced with a shortage in child care workers, states have come up with an alternative. a hodgepodge of changes These solutions address many aspects of the problem. They can be used to raise classroom ratios or lower the age of child-care workers. Dade stated that such solutions are not only dangerous but unlikely to be beneficial for the industry in the long term. The child care market will continue its decline without significant investment.

“For those who have been studying the field for a while and understanding the issues that affect the workforce, it’s coming at no surprise because of how low wages fuel high turnover and make it really hard for folks to stay,” Dade said.

Even if all child care providers were allowed to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, Patterson said, it’s unlikely that program alone would transform the workforce. She said that it would be a great relief for workers already in child care, who have low wages and receive very few benefits.

“This is an opportunity to provide relief to the early workforce, but we are also consistent in saying that there needs to be additional investment in the sector,” Patterson said.

This is the story about public service loan forgiveness Produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization that is independent and focuses on education inequalities and innovation. Register now for the Hechinger newsletter.