“Student Loan Debt” seems to be a buzzword these days and quite a hot topic. If you are a student like me, you love getting those emails showing your most “up-to-date current principal balance” and watching your balance skyrocket. But the Oregon Chapter has taken a step to combat (not eliminate) the increasing student debt issue, and has had some serious backing from chapters such as Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas; as well as the Oncology and Pediatric Sections of the APTA; and this step is titled “RC 11”. So, as a student, what do you need to know about RC 11-16? Here is the quick and dirty of what it is composed of & what it could mean for you!
- The Why: You may be asking yourself WHY did Oregon put together this motion? Well, let me tell you!
- RC 11-16 is attempting to understand the effect of student loan debt on the profession, the association, and ultimately society, and to take steps to ameliorate that effect.
- RC 11 also encourages more research to be done about student loan debt burden.
- The last survey about student loan debt was completed in 2007, and as a result, there are no known tangible actions taken.
- No follow-up survey completed or even planned.
- Finally, RC 11-16 is encouraging the need to understand the rising debt-to-income-ratio and how it impacts future decisions of those riddled with debt.
After all the information has been collected, RC 11 encourages the APTA to make recommendations for additional actions to mitigate threats facing our profession and associated related to student debt.
- The What: RC11 has broken down four main areas that the APTA can expand upon by examining strategies used by other professional associations and optimize them for the physical therapy profession. So what did RC11 use as the proposed examples of how to manage these four main areas?
- Scholarship: The Foundation for Physical Therapy or another similar organization could establish an endowment funded by individuals and groups to support scholarships and loan forgiveness for well-qualified physical therapy students and new professionals. Although this is not within the current mission of the Foundation, RC 11 states that initial communication with the Foundation on this indicates it is willing to consider this.
- Loan Refinancing: the APTA could partner with a lending organization to offer an attractive new member benefit to new professionals with student loan debt who maintain membership within our organization. This could allow more attractive interests rates.
- Education: Provide financial literacy and money management skills to prospective and current PT students and new professionals to aid in decision making around student loan debt.
- Advocacy: Our Student Assembly and other new professional and student-focused special interest groups could increase their power to impact state and national student debt legislation by intentionally aligning with an increased breadth of allies to significantly increase the number of individuals and voices working in ways that will benefit physical therapy.
- The How: How can this affect you? You may be a first year or still in your didactic curriculum and just wanting to pass your next Kinesiology Exam. But one day, very soon, you will be looking for a job! You may want to enroll in a post-professional residency program! You may want to start a life, as well as your career, and purchase a house! These loans will follow you, they will impact your future decisions. RC 11 questions if we, as students and new graduates, are seeking initial employment positions based on financial considerations rather than career enhancement and skills development? Following the money is not the answer; it just means that you will not be happy and potentially not provide the best care possible. If we can combat that first hand, we will provide better patient experiences out of the gate!
- What Can You Do? So, as a student, what can you do? Well, the fact that you are a STUDENT or a #FRESHPT works in your favor; people love to hear from the future of the profession! Students from the Wisconsin and Arizona Student Special Interest Groups (SSIGs) are starting to take action; they are taking the Advocacy subsection to heart! These two states are planning to get face time in each school and educate the students, call your representatives, voice your opinion on Social Media, and make some noise! These are all things that you can do! Does your state have a SSIG? Can you enlist the help of your Core Ambassador to work on calling representatives, going in to the classrooms within your state and educating your fellow students, or starting a social media movement?
RC 11-16 goes before the House of Delegates on June 6-8, 2016, so get out there and start talking about RC11 and make some noise!
For more information on motions and the House of Delegates, or to contact a delegate, use the APTA website: http://www.apta.org/apta/directories/HODRosters.aspx?navID=10737423707
“The time for action is now. Each year that passes increases the number of individuals in our profession affected by student loan debt. The House of Delegates elevated our profession to the level of doctor to optimize our expertise and our utility to society. It is now time for us to make that plan sustainable by protecting the future of our profession.”
About the Author: Jen Howe is a 2nd year Physical Therapy Student at A.T. Still University in Arizona. She is currently the Director of Communications for the SoWH SSIG & works on the Arizona Student Special Interest Group’s Board as well. She is looking forward to starting her clinical rotations in August, and cannot wait to enjoy some time out in the sun or on her yoga mat in the one month she has off in July!