E-Newsletter-Help for Families Facing Student Loan Debt
Like many of you, I was moved by the story of Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti and her family’s struggle to pay off student loans. After her son Kevin passed away, she received a disturbing letter from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA). “Please accept our condolences on your loss,” the letter from the agency read. “After careful consideration of the information you provided, the authority has determined that your request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness. Monthly bill statements will continue to be sent to you.” I know that the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans believe it is unacceptable for debt collectors to force a grieving mother to pay off the college loans of her deceased son.
There are many other similar cases including HESSA suing a cancer survivor hundreds for thousands of dollars for his inability to make payments when he was getting treatment and out of work. New Jerseyans expect their state-run loan program to work with them through hardships, but HESAA has refused to reasonably accommodate borrowers. When students or their families are facing extreme hardship, hawkish collection practices from a lender is the last thing they should have to worry about.
That’s why I am introducing the Student Borrower Higher Education Lending Protection (“HELP”) Act, new legislation to protect student borrowers and co-signers from egregious debt collection practices. The bill amends the Truth in Lending Act with three main provisions for private lenders, including HESSA. The provisions include:
- Requiring total loan forgiveness for any student borrower who is subsequently determined to have a permanent disability or any family member who is a cosigner of a loan taken out by a student borrower who dies.
- Deferment of loan payments (without any financial penalty) for borrowers with a temporary disability.
- Requiring private lenders to disclose the default rates so borrowers are aware before signing any documents of the financial risk of entering into a contract with that lender.
Paying for college is hard enough with New Jersey families face $31 billion in student loan debt. We should be working to find ways to make college more affordable, not pursuing families that are already going through difficult times. If you have a moment, please respond to this email or contact my office to share your thoughts on college affordability and collection practices and what you think should be done about it. It is my job to represent you and I want to make sure that your views are taken into account while I’m fighting on your behalf.
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.