Congresswoman Wants to Forgive Arts Professionals’ Student Debt

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez is working to help artists reduce their student loan debt by as much as $10,000. If the American Arts Revival Act is passed, it will also extend federal public-service loan forgiveness to cultural workers, museum professionals, and certain arts and humanities professors who work with children, adolescents, and seniors.

“Those working in the arts and related fields make invaluable contributions to New York City and to our entire nation,” Velázquez said. “Individuals that dedicate themselves to these professions enrich our culture and my bill would provide many of them with relief from mounting student loan debt.”

The average debt for a graduate specializing in art, music, and design averages at nearly $22,000. According to Occupy Museums—whose ongoing project Debtfair asks artists who are struggling to stay out of the red to share their experiences—artists today are grappling with a total running debt that exceeds $55 million.

In order to qualify for forgiveness, individuals must work full-time in the performing, visual, or musical arts fields, which provide services to seniors, children, or adolescents. The bill would also amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to state that professions offering these services are deemed to be in the public interest.

More than one hundred organizations, including major educational institutions like the Pratt Institute, Carnegie Hall, and the California Institute for the Arts, have already endorsed the proposed legislation.

“Educating artists and designers and providing them with the skill set to succeed in life as creative professionals is critical, and we are proud to support the American Arts Revival Act of 2017,” said Pratt Institute president Thomas F. Schutte. “We live in a fascinating time of great creative inspiration and pioneering work, all of which impacts our country in myriad ways, from contributing to our nation’s economy to shaping our diverse culture. By reducing student debt, we are encouraging our creative thinkers to dedicate themselves to their work and further expand the boundaries of innovation in this country.”