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College tuitions rise at disparate rates with starting salaries and inflation, causing student debt to weigh on social work graduates. Data was collected from 701 social workers in an NASW - Ohio Chapter survey to investigate this disparity and its consequences. The purpose of this study was to analyze the qualitative data set, 174 written comments, for themes and perceptions. The following themes, echoed in current research on the topics of social work salary and student debt burden, were identified: unmanageable debt and financial burden, varying lengths of time and repayment methods, social workers feeling undervalued and underpaid, loan forgiveness programs, and the need for greater advocacy for social workers’ educational debt relief. The demand for social work is projected to grow; this research is important to help maintain the needed workforce so social workers do not leave the profession to pursue a living wage, or choose another path entirely.
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Presented at the Eighth Annual Celebration of Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities, Dayton, OH, April 21, 2017.
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