Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), seen here giving a speech, introduced the American Arts Revival Act.

On June 21, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would forgive student loans for art professionals.

If passed, the American Arts Revival Act would expand the student loan forgiveness program by granting public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) eligibility to cultural workers, museum professionals, artistic professionals, and certain arts and humanities professors.

During the introduction, Velazquez mentioned the “invaluable contributions” these professions make towards New York and the United States. She went on to assert that “these professions enrich our culture,” claiming that the bill would help bring “relief from mounting student loan debt.”

It is no secret that college-level art degrees result in large student loan debt totals. The average debt of a graduate specializing in art, music, and design is approximately $22,000. While this is still below the national average (currently around $28,000), it becomes more of an issue when taking into account the reduced earnings that are typical of those fields.

In order to qualify for student loan forgiveness under the American Arts Revival Act, individuals must be employed full-time in the performing, visual, or musical arts that provide services to seniors, children, or adolescents. Additionally, Velazquez’s bill would update the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include professions that offer these services as qualified public service in the PSLF program.

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“Investing in arts and arts education is an investment in our children,” Velázquez noted, “Not only will this initiative assist arts educators, but by attracting additional talent to the field, it will benefit students, young people, seniors and adolescents who take these courses.”

The legislative piece introduced by Congresswoman Velazquez has already been endorsed by more than 100 organizations. Colleges such as the Pratt Institute and the California Institute for the Arts have expressed their support towards the bill.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) was created in 2007 with the intent to help borrowers who are employed at a federal, state, or local government job full-time. It often includes those who work in healthcare, education, legal services, and more. PSLF requires 120 qualifying loan payments over the course of 10 years; it is tax-free to borrowers.

PSLF has been a source of controversy ever since its fruition. Forgiveness under the program is slated to begin this year, but there have already been cases involving failures to administer forgiveness to qualified borrowers.

Late last year, the Student Loan Report covered a story regarding a lawsuit directed at the Department of Education from several affected lawyers and the American Bar Association. These lawyers applied and qualified for public service loan forgiveness around 2007, but were later notified that their current jobs no longer qualified for student loan forgiveness.

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