Where do we draw the line to determine who has worth? Recently, one of our posts discussed the social work reinvestment act, and the concept of tuition forgiveness, grants, or other assistance with higher education. Many who oppose these ideas state that “no one helped them” or “you can’t get anything for free once you’ve agreed” as part of their reasoning. This argument is assuming that the borrower or those who wish to receive higher education are lazy, and trying to get something for free. Let’s shelve the knowledge that many of these individuals went to school decades ago, when even adjusting for inflation a single individual could pay for the majority of the cost with a part-time job. Others accept that there are instances where forgiveness of payments is allowed may occur only if the person is in great danger on behalf of the country, such as our servicemembers. So let’s talk about this.
First, let’s assume that not all assistance needs to be giving someone money. What if education for certain professions were capped at a certain price? Or loans for those jobs had a lower interest rate? What if, those who work in a capacity where they are constantly giving back to society or putting themselves at some risk were deemed eligible to receive assistance? I whole hardly agree that our service members, because of their service to this country have the right to receive their education benefits (housing, pension, etc.). I do not agree that they are the only ones who should be eligible for that help. What about police and firefighters? They put their life on the line every day. Many would say, “O.K. that’s similar, they should be eligible too.” So we can establish that it is that nature of the job. Well what about roles that may not involve the threat of constant physical harm, but still have high levels of risk, or needs that must be met for society? No? OK, but if a person in the military, or police force does not hold a specific duty station that has the high risk of harm, do they qualify? We’d say absolutely, because they’re accepting the risk of what might be. In service of the country.
See that’s what I believe is the key component. In service of our country. Those who commit themselves to constant and loyal service to our society, our government, our people, should be helped to maintain some level of living that keeps their heads above water. So where do we draw that line? Do teachers, who spend years teaching our youth, at times in poor neighborhoods or with overwhelming numbers of students qualify? Do we, as social workers, who work with every walk of life, putting ourselves between our clients and everything else, deserve that same protection? Sure there are some organizations that allow for loan assistance for years of service, but they’re minimal, have lower pay than standard and often not anywhere near our current location. Not a great choice for any person.
Many feel that ideas like tuition assistance, loan forgiveness, or other means of aide are hand-outs. Using ‘social work’ as an example, I don’t understand the argument. Those who go into social work are not doing it for the income. Most of us know we’ll never “make it rich” but we’re not hoping for a life of poverty either. In our careers, we work tirelessly giving back to society in one form or another. Regardless of if it is at a loan forgiveness approved site, we are doing a needed and intricate job. Agreeing to do that service should not come with the high risk of ending up making less and owing more than many of the clients we serve. Walking into the dangerous neighborhoods, putting ourselves as the point of contact with agitated and at times, dangerous or high risk patients is a service for the country and one that we gladly undertake, one that we find fulfillment in, but our options can run out.
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW
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