Americans are more burdened by student-loan debt than ever. Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with significant loan debt, according to a CNBC report. More than 44 million borrowers owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans, according to economic data from CNBC and the Federal Reserve.
As professional counselors prepare to enter their career, they face expensive educational requirements and the potential for steep loan payments. After college, unexpected factors can lead anyone to fall behind in student loan payments. In a number of states, this could cause professional counselors or other licensed professionals to lose their operating licenses.
Legislation is pending in the House and Senate that would prohibit states from denying, suspending or revoking state-issued professional licenses, teaching licenses or driver’s licenses because the licensees are behind on federal student-loan payments.
The Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and in the House by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA). The measure would give states two years to get into compliance and would provide legal recourse against states not in compliance by allowing borrowers to file for prospective injunctive relief if a state violates the terms of the act. The bill would not change the federal government’s existing methods of student-loan debt collection.
License Suspensions Occurring in 20 States
At least 20 states have been suspending at least one form of license for borrowers behind on student-loan payments. Tennessee alone reported more than 5,400 people to state licensure boards and agencies between 2012 and 2017, according to a New York Times report. The U.S. Department of Education encouraged states to begin these actions in 1990.
“Difficulty repaying a student loan debt should not threaten a graduate’s job,” Rubio said. “It makes no sense to revoke a professional license from someone who is trying to pay their student loans. Our bill would fix this ‘catch-22’ and ensure that borrowers are able to continue working to pay off their loans.”
Rubio, who once supported the practice in Florida, has changed his position on the issue.
"Working Americans are struggling to get ahead,” Rep. Cicilline said. “Wages are flat, and on a fundamental level, people know that the economy is not working for them. Some states have further stacked the deck against working people by taking away their professional license due to unpaid student loan debt. This must end. I am proud to join my colleagues—Representative Ferguson and Senators Rubio and Warren—to introduce this legislation to help workers pay off their debt and make ends meet by ending this harmful practice.”
The American Counseling Association hopes that Congress will be able to pass this legislation by the end of the year.
What You Can Do
Ask your elected representatives to support these measures that would help professional counselors, your clients and others who may have fallen behind in student-loan payments. The House bill number is H.R. 6156 and the Senate bill number is S. 3065.
You can contact your representatives in Washington in support of these measures by clicking here, scrolling to the bottom of the page to the “Find Officials” box and entering your address and Zip Code.