Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) has called on the Education Department to forgive the student loans of employees at Livermore and Sandia national laboratories.
Swalwell urged the department to make employees of all privately operated Department of Energy (DOE) labs eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The program forgives the federal student loans of workers at qualified non-profit or government organizations after 10 years of full-time employment.
While employees of some DOE labs are eligible for this loan forgiveness program, five labs, including Lawrence Livermore and Sandia in Swalwell's congressional district, are not because they are operated by for-profit companies.
"The employees of Department of Energy Labs like Sandia and Lawrence Livermore are committed public servants," Swalwell wrote in a letter to the DOE.
"These labs have a long history of scientific breakthroughs, but when faced with high student loan debt, some young scientists and engineers are forced to opt for more lucrative careers in the private sector," Swalwell said.
"It makes perfect sense to offer all DOE lab employees, regardless of how their lab is operated, the opportunity to participate in the (program), he added. "Growing student loan debt should not be an impediment to the next generation of our best and brightest from devoting their careers to the critical endeavors of our DOE national labs."
There are 16 DOE national labs operated by private entities nationwide. These labs are operated by contractors but owned by the government with a public interest mission, such as nuclear security or energy independence. At least 70% of the labs' funding must come from the federal government.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was created in 2007 to incentivize public sector employment. The program forgives the remaining federal student loan balance of borrowers who work for qualified non-profits or government agencies and made 120 qualifying monthly payments on their loans.
Sixteen Members of Congress joined Swalwell in signing the letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. They are Representatives Tony Cardenas, Judy Chu, Mark DeSaulnier, Anna G. Eshoo, Chaka Fattah, Bill Foster, Michael M. Honda, Sheila Jackson Lee, Marcy Kaptur, James R. Langevin, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Ben Ray Lujan, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Ed Perlmutter, and Bonnie Watson Colman.