This piece was originally published at The Military Times.
Veteran education advocates are continuing to fight a controversial bill that would sunset a student loan forgiveness benefit for public-sector employees, including service members, hoping their efforts — and the Pentagon’s opposition — can keep it from ever getting to a vote.
“It’s a national security issue at this point, and that’s highly concerning to us,” said Tanya Ang, policy and outreach director for Veterans Education Success.
The nonprofit is one of many veteran service organizations that have opposed the legislation since it was first introduced by Republican House lawmakers late last year. Among their chief concerns with the PROSPER Act is its proposal to eliminate the public service loan forgiveness program for nonprofit workers and employees of local, state and federal agencies, including the military.
Despite the opposition, the bill’s proponents see PROSPER as a way to curb rising college costs and enable students to pursue careers without demonstrable student loan debt. A spokesman for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce told Military Times, “We have heard from many groups on provisions within the PROSPER Act, and believe the bill will provide veterans and active duty military the best opportunity to achieve a postsecondary education that they rightly deserve.”
A Defense Department document released earlier this year states the loan forgiveness program, available to eligible borrowers after 10 years of qualifying student loan payments, is an “important recruitment and retention tool for the military to compete with the civilian sector,” particularly in specialty fields. The Navy has also raised concerns for the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which leans on this program as an incentive for new recruits.
The House committee spokesman did not comment directly on the Pentagon’s position.
Ang said, “When you’re dealing with issues as (loan forgiveness) and cutting a recruiting tool for our armed services when we’re in one of the longest wars we’ve ever been in, that to me is a national security issue.”...