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ASHA Successfully Brings Loan Forgiveness for School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists Closer To Reality


House Committee Action Recognizes Speech-Language Pathology as a Profession of National Need

Originally posted to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Headlines e-mail list on 8-2-05.


(Rockville, MD—August 2, 2005) Following months of effort by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) lobbyists, the U.S. House of Representatives House Education and Workforce Committee passed a bill in late July that identifies school-based speech-language pathologists as a profession of national need and a priority for loan forgiveness.

Known as the College Access & Opportunity Act (H.R. 609), the legislation, which is aimed at attracting and retaining new professionals in school-based speech language pathology, would forgive up to $5,000 of a student's loan after: 1) obtaining, at a minimum, a master's degree in speech-language pathology from an accredited academic program, 2) meeting the Medicare criteria for a qualified speech-language pathology provider (i.e., successfully completed a clinical fellowship and national exam), and 3) having been employed full-time for five consecutive school years. The individual involved would also have to be a "new borrower" after the enactment date of the Higher Education Act reauthorization. ASHA lobbyists are seeking clarification that a "new borrower" applies to individuals who are beginning their master's degree studies and not to incoming undergraduates.

"The Committee's action marks a tremendous first step toward not only gaining important and deserved recognition for school-based speech-language pathologists, but also the long-term benefit of serving school children in need," according to ASHA President Dolores E. Battle, PhD, CCC-SLP. "ASHA is continuing to work closely with Congress to build upon this success."

The full House is expected to take up the measure this fall. Assuming it passes, the Senate would have to consider the bill next before it could become law. Still, the fact that the measure has won House Committee approval is considered a landmark achievement for gaining rightful recognition for school-based speech-language pathologists.

Under H.R. 609, the loan forgiveness program would be run through the U.S. Department of Education. For more information or questions, please contact Neil Snyder, ASHA's Director of Federal Advocacy, nsnyder@asha.org, 800-498-2071 ext 4257.

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing organization for more than 118,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. For more information on ASHA, visit www.asha.org

Reprinted by permission of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.