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The Nonprofit Student Debt Project is a CalNonprofits initiative to educate and inform nonprofit staff and employers about the crisis of student debt and its impact on the nonprofit workforce, to advocate for public policy changes, and engage our community on solutions.

In particular, we are focused on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) as a vital resource for the nonprofit sector. PSLF offers loan forgiveness to staff of nonprofit organizations after 120 payments are made on a qualified repayment plan.

There have been many changes since PSLF was introduced in 2007, particularly in just the past year. The most important news for nonprofit employees is:

  • Even though borrowers didn’t have to make loan payments during that welcome pause on during COVID-19, credit for those payments still count toward PSLF as long as you met all other PSLF qualifications. HOWEVER, to receive those credits you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment. You can find out more information from the Federal Student Aid website: 
  • In an attempt to expand and improve the PSLF program, borrowers can now receive credit for past payments on previously ineligible loans. Learn more about the recent changes to PSLF and access the Federal Student Aid PSLF Help Tool here: 
  • Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, a new Income Driven Repayment (IDR) option, re-sets smonthly payments at 5% of discretionary income for undergraduate loans and 10% for graduate loans. Get more details and learn how to apply here:

We're excited that CalNonprofits members now have access to our new partner Savi, an online platform that helps employees navigate the complexities of repayment and loan forgiveness options. Both free and premium plans are now available to all our members – both individuals with student loans and nonprofit employers who would like to offer this helpful resource as a benefit to their staff who need it. Get more details here

Everyone has heard about the student debt crisis. According to the 2022 US Census, the collective student debt currently stands at $1.77 trillion held by 45 million people (approximately one in seven Americans). Some 4 million Californians have federal student loan debt, owing in total almost $150 billion, at an average of $37,700. In 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom said some 800,000 Californians likely qualify for PSLF. Yet fewer than 15,000 Californians have actually had their loans forgiven to date, according to Rich Cordray, chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid. Learn more about the scope of the student debt crisis on the Chamber of Commerce's Student Debt Statistics website.

We estimate that more than 160,000 nonprofit staff have student debt. A 2016 survey conducted by CalNonprofits confirmed that student debt is hurting recruitment, retention and diversity in the nonprofit workforce. Over the years, CalNonprofits has supported improvements to state policies governing student debt. These have resulted in the Student Borrower Bill of Rights, which created a state student loan ombudsman to track borrower complaints and set up additional protections, as well as measures to protect those with private loans.

We strongly encourage nonprofit leaders and staff to learn about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and make sure they are – and remain – eligible for forgiveness. Watch this space for coming updates, new toolkits, and more!

RECORDING: Accessing Public Service Loan Forgiveness Webinar

youtube iconOur most recent webinar on student debt explores the return to repayment and other developments around the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program with Celina Damian, the Student Loan Servicing Ombudsperson from the California Dept of Financial Protection and Innovation. Check out the recording of this September 2023 webinar here.

What is the impact of student debt on the nonprofit workforce? Here’s what we found out in our survey. A new one is in the works for 2024.
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What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can help the nonprofit sector address the student debt crisis, but not enough people know about it.

  • Find out more here.

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