Butler University professor Sunny Hawkins receives her student loans. Photo by Ben Caylor.
ANNIE FAULKNER | HR REPORTER | [email protected]
Sunny Hawkins was at Starbucks when an email notification appeared on her screen. She declined the notification out of nervousness, afraid of what she would say. Two months earlier, she had started the application process to cancel her student loans. This email would reveal whether or not your application was accepted.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t look at it! I can’t look! ‘”Said Hawkins, an English professor at Butler. “But then I made myself pull it up and I wanted to scream, but I was in the middle of Starbucks because the first word was ‘congratulations’ so I knew it was good news.”
Hawkins had qualified for that Temporary Expanded Public Service Lending Program, a federal program designed to provide student loan forgiveness options for public officials such as teachers, firefighters, and other community service workers. Following his induction last December, Hawkins became the first Butler faculty to qualify and accept the program.
TEPSLF began in May 2018 with the aim of troubleshooting its previous program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Both programs are designed to provide student loan waiver for people who have worked in government or nonprofit organizations for 10 years and who have completed 120 payments on their student loan, which is a 10 year payment.
PSLF, the original program, only accepted federal direct loans and income-based repayment programs.
As a result, many people who would otherwise have qualified have been denied. While TEPSLF was created to make the program more accessible to more officials, 99% of applicants for the revised program were still rejected according to NPR. Hawkins is one of the few TEPSLF applicants to be accepted.
“It’s bureaucracy, so there were tires that [I] Had to jump through, ”said Hawkins.
To apply for student loan waiver, Hawkins first had to apply for the original program, knowing it would be rejected, as is the case with the vast majority of PSLF applicants. She then went through the application process for TEPSLF. Hawkins was required to certify her employment details at all four universities she worked at for the past 10 years and to provide a record of all student loan payments made during that time.
“It was a lot easier than I thought, in part because I’m a very organized person and so I already had good records,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins attended Southern Illinois University from 1997 to 2007, where she completed her bachelor, master and doctorate degrees.
“And I’ve never had a problem paying my monthly student loan payments, but it was just this thing that kept hanging over my head like, ‘You owe so much money. You can’t go bankrupt with it, you can’t get away with it, you have to pay that back, ”” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that the forgiveness of her loans opened up opportunities in her life that she would not have had without the TEPSLF.
“I am in the unique and wonderful position of no debt, I have zero debt,” said Hawkins. “And it creates decisions in my life that I didn’t have before. Do you know what type of home I want to buy? What kind of family do I want to have? All those things that you really can’t think of when you owe $ 100,000 in student loans, suddenly it’s just gone and you can get on with your life. “
Roua Daas, a junior who works with Hawkins in the writing studio, said Hawkins deserved her student loans to be granted.
“A lot of the students I spoke to in the studio or who were clients in the writing studio are really comfortable with Dr. Talking to Sunny not only about academic or writing-related problems, but also about her personal problems. ”Daas, Psychology and French Dual Degree, said. “And I think that’s really admirable, because I don’t think you find that with a lot of professors.”
Hawkins said students should be careful not to take out more credit than they need for their classes, but that students shouldn’t be afraid to take out student loans to help them get a higher education.
“I honestly find it really sad how much student loans control people’s lives and not just during their studies but for the rest of their lives,” said Daas.
While TEPSLF could help civil service workers like Hawkins, President Donald Trump’s proposed 2021 budget would cut $ 5.6 billion from the Department of Education’s budget according to the New York Times. This would result in both PSLF and TEPSLF being cut overall.
“I’m not a politician or an economist, maybe there are good reasons to get rid of such programs,” said Hawkins. “But I think it would be a shame to do this without recognizing that people make sacrifices in order to work in public services.”
Terry Kelley-Crouse, Senior Benefit Analyst for Butler’s Human Resources Department, helped Hawkins with her TEPSLF application. Kelley-Crouse said Human Resources will provide Butler employees with more information about student loan facilities that may be available to them.
“I don’t think we really advertised that before, people found it themselves,” says Kelley-Crouse. “Maybe there are a lot of people out there who don’t even know they can.”
When more information is available, other faculty members could begin the TEPSLF application process. This student loan program could transform the lives of faculty members on Butler’s campus, just as it did for Hawkins.