WA Lawmakers Consider "Student Loan Bill of Rights"
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill to hold student loan providers accountable for their services.
Passed in the House last week, the Senate is considering the Student Loan Bill of Rights.
House Bill 1440 gives students protections as consumers of loan services, and also establishes a student loan ombuds to advocate for students and resolve loan issues.
Rep. Monica Stonier, who sponsored the bill in the House, says an ombuds will be able to help students navigate the questionable practices of some loan providers.
"The ombud can provide that kind of information about what still needs to be fixed in the law in order to ensure that loan servicers are compliant, and providing an acceptable level of customer service and transparency to loan borrowers," she explains.
The legislation comes at the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson. It is currently in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Similar bills have passed in California, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.
Stonier says the attorney general requested legislation after receiving hundreds of complaints from student borrowers and eventually filing a lawsuit against Navient, the largest student loan servicer in the country.
Borrowers have complained about a lack of information for payment options, and accruing late fees even when they didn't miss the payment.
Stonier points out that failing to pay loans can have serious consequences for students, hampering their ability later in life to buy a car or home.
"They're nervous about the level of debt that they're going to have when they graduate,” she states. “And to be able to pay it with a basic level of service and acceptable best practice from their loan servicers is something that they recognize could have a continuing negative impact on their credit if that isn't resolved."
The attorney general also requested Senate Bill 5022, which requires colleges to provide information to students about their loan balances and monthly payments within 30 days of receiving the loan. It passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House Higher Education Committee.