Two New Laws Will Help Protect Student Borrowers

NJTV News — July 30, 2019

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent

With Gov. Phil Murphy on vacation in Italy, Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver did the honors, signing two bills at Seton Hall University aimed at helping student borrowers.

The first bill requires colleges to provide students with a shopping list that shows the net cost of their tuition and programs before and after loans — "know before you go," they call it.

"We all want our young people to go to college, but we don't want them to go to college blindly," said Sen. Sandra Cunningham, chair of the Higher Education Committee.

The second bill requires lenders to be licensed by the Department of Banking and Insurance and sets up an ombudsman for student loans within the department.

"What we know is that too many students take on student debt that they don't understand they're taking on, so the shopping list gives them an opportunity to really look at what the costs of their higher ed are going to be. And then we know that too many students on the other end, who have the debt, student and their families are being deceived, abused and not treated fairly by their loan servicers. Their payments are misapplied. They're not being steered toward the most effective and affordable ways to pay their loans," said Beverly Brown Ruggia, financial justice organizer at New Jersey Citizen Action.

One in every nine New Jerseyans is carrying student debt. Oliver said it was easier in her day.

"I'm a baby boomer. I came of age during what I call the tumultuous 60s. And when I think about my peers of another generation, affordability in aspiring to higher education was not something that we had to worry about. Public policy was committed to supporting students in this country, and it is our hope by the actions we are taking in the state of New Jersey, that we can contribute to a national conversation about access to higher education for all students, not just in New Jersey but across the country," said Oliver.

Up from Washington was Seth Frotman, who quit his job in the Trump administration over student loans. He had been loan coordinator at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Trump's Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

"Unfortunately, Mick Mulvaney and his successor have made it very clear that student loan borrowers aren't the priority. They're not willing to take the steps necessary to help them as they struggle," said Frotman.

Student Axel Esquivel spoke about the importance of his state Tuition Assistance Grant.

"The TAG funding is a vote of confidence that allowed me to thrive here at Seton Hall as a student in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. I hope to someday be the U.S. ambassador to Italy," said Esquivel.

A lot of statistics were thrown around. Among the most striking was that Americans owe more in student loan debt than in credit card debt.

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