The federal government will no longer forgive student loans in exchange for public service if that service is related to religion, according to a new Education Department rule from the Obama administration.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program announced the change Jan. 31 with little fanfare, while most of Washington was focused on the new ObamaCare rule requiring religious organizations to provide free birth control through health insurance.
“Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes,” reads the new language.
“However, if you work for a nonprofit organization, your employment will not qualify for PSLF if your job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing,” the announcement said. Also, the organization cannot be a labor union or a partisan political organization.
Congress created the loan forgiveness program in 2007 to encourage graduates to enter the public service field. In exchange for that service, the remaining balance of student loans would be considered repaid after 120 full payments.
To qualify for the loan forgiveness, one must now work for a federal, state or local government agency or organization, including public water, bridge or housing districts, or nonprofit organizations designated as tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service.
Public services that also qualify for the loan forgiveness include emergency management, military service, public safety, law enforcement services; public health services; public education, public library services; school library and other school-based services; public interest law services, early childhood education; public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.