Student Loan Forgiveness Program
Engineers are in demand now more than ever, but our nation’s universities are not keeping up with the need for new engineering graduates. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering have declined by nearly 20 percent since 1985. The engineering workforce is also getting older -- nearly 30 percent of all engineering and science degree holders in the labor force are 50 or over and are expected to retire in the next 15 years.
A growing economy depends on engineering talent, and therefore reversing the declining trend in engineering graduates is critical to the nation’s future economic security.
On July 31, 2008, Congress approved the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) to reauthorize and expand federal student aid programs. Signed into law by President Bush on August 14, 2008, the Act includes a new program that seeks to address labor shortages in engineering and other “high need” professions.
Under the law, an individual will be eligible for up to $2,000 in student loan forgiveness for each of five years of work in engineering or other designated fields. The maximum amount of loan forgiveness available to an individual will be $10,000. Only years of work completed after August 14, 2008 will count toward the student loan forgiveness requirements.
The new program is modeled after legislation introduced in 2007 by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), the Strategic Technology/Engineering Program Act of 2007 (STEP Act). The STEP Act sought to create new student loan forgiveness and scholarship programs with the goal of encouraging more young people to pursue engineering careers.
The Department of Education (DOE) has begun the process of writing regulations to implement the new law, which will include the establishment of a negotiated rulemaking committee that will review input from ACEC and other stakeholders. ACEC has submitted initial comments to DOE, and will work with the agency and Congress to ensure that the new program is properly funded.
ACEC urges Congress to provide full funding for this important program.