If you pursued higher education, especially in the last decade or two, then you’re likely in the same boat as me. My boat is barely staying afloat! I’m talking debt here; staggering I-can’t-believe-I’m-not-a-lawyer-at-this-price-point debt. Among the reasons someone might not get an MLS, the vast majority just can’t afford it. Those of us that were willing to mortgage our futures are finding there isn’t a chance we’ll ever recoup those expenses.
But lo! There actually is real hope, real help! I found out about it in the most unlikely way: at Essex Cinemas’ Throwback Thursdays for the showing of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I ran into an old friend from high school and the subject of continuing education and our respective debt loads came up. She works for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and was shocked that I didn’t know about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).
I looked it up and thought I couldn’t be qualified and I’ll tell you why: semantics. When I read the description of the program, it listed “public education or public library services” and “school library and other school-based services” as qualifying. In libraryland “school” means something different than it does to the federal government. As an academic librarian, I might have assumed I wasn’t eligible. Good thing I asked, because now there is a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel!
As someone who is on an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan for loans, mine are getting bigger every year. However, since I’ve consolidated my loans with Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, which is required and saved me money anyway, PSLF will forgive my loans after 10 years of qualifying payments during full-time employment at any kind of school or public library. My IBR counts and payments need not be consecutive but don’t begin until I start paying with Direct. I just have to have my HR department sign a form that verifies my employment, though I confess I haven’t done this part yet so it still feels too good to be true! So, instead of dying with these loans, I might actually be able to shed them in my early 40s. I mean, retirement might actually be on the table for the first time! And that is worth crowing about.
Additionally, there are some options for getting your MLS that are less expensive. First, you get a 20% discount at Drexel as a member of VLA. Second, the University of Southern Connecticut recently announced that they’re offering in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students if they start their program this summer, which applies to the Information & Library Science Department. Lastly, if you are looking to start or finish up your BA so that you can get an MLS, Simmons now offers a four year combo degree, which saves you having to pay separately for your BA and MLS.
So, if you have student loans that have kept you from getting your MLS, or if you got it and you are drowning in it, or you’re afraid to take on loans because of all the stories about heartbreaking levels of debt, don’t despair. There’s hope for all of us!
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
Eliot D. Pratt Library, Goddard College