The Need for Social Work Educational Debt Relief

14 Jan

By Emily Puffer
NASW Ohio Chapter Intern

Social workers across the United States provide a number of services to individuals, families, and communities affected by life’s hardships. From refugee resettlement to family reunification, social workers are the essential adhesive to our society. While most men and women do not pursue a career in social work for financial gain, they may not have expected to face financial hardship because of their career choice. Living on a social worker’s starting salary (as low as $25,000) is hard enough, but when families and, especially, students loans are thrown into the mix it is nearly impossible to get by without assistance.

Social work students who graduate with a BSW accrue an average of $32,779 of debt in student loans. For MSW graduates the average elevates to about $44,584 of student loan debt. To put this in perspective, a social worker with $33,000 in subsidized student loans would pay about $400 every month for ten years before that debt could be repaid in full. A social worker with $45,000 in subsidized student loans would pay about $550 every month for ten years. With the inflated cost of education and stating salaries as low as $25,000, what incentive is there for an Ohioan to pursue a career in social work?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the state of Ohio has one of the highest concentrations of social workers and, yet, is also in the lowest 25th percentile when it comes to social work salaries. The average of all social work salaries in the state, representing the salaries of social workers in a wide range of fields, and with varying levels of practice experience, is $45,830. In other states, such as Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania social workers make between $60,000 and $70,000 per year on average. This shocking statistic begs the question, “Why would anyone want to be a social worker in Ohio?”

With the anticipation of a 25% increase in social work related jobs over the next couple of years, Ohio should think about creating incentives for men and women to pursue a social work education. As it stands, Pennsylvania, New York, and California have developed educational debt relief programs to ease the financial burden on social workers and to encourage the growth of this much needed and valuable profession. You’re next Ohio!

NASW is dedicated to advocating for the development of an educational debt relief program for social workers in Ohio. Sign the petition here and join the fight with the new NASW Ohio Chapter Educational Debt Relief Committee. Together we will advocate for ourselves so that we can better serve Ohioans. 

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