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Virginia Lawmakers Urged to Tackle Student Loan Crisis

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In 2018, two out of 10 people who owe money on their student loans were behind on their payments, according to the Federal Reserve. (Adobe stock)
In 2018, two out of 10 people who owe money on their student loans were behind on their payments, according to the Federal Reserve. (Adobe stock)
 By Diane Bernard - Producer, Contact
September 13, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. – Groups in Virginia are pushing state lawmakers to pass a Borrower's Bill of Rights, just days after a U.S. House hearing at which student debt was called a "one-and-a-half-trillion-dollar national crisis."

The Virginia bill is designed to protect more than one million people who have student debt from what some consider irregular servicing practices. But House Republicans have defeated the bill in the past three General Assembly sessions, according to Anna Scholl, executive director of the group Progress Virginia.

"They're very basic protections that would require student loan servicers, for example, to give borrowers their loan balances when they ask,” says Scholl. “They would be prohibited from recklessly misapplying payments. Really basic provisions that, frankly, we don't think should be a burden on the servicers."

A spokesperson for the Student Loan Servicing Alliance says the trade association opposes the bill because it would set up "rights" that might differ from state to state and could confuse borrowers.

Virginians owe about $39 billion in student loans. Scholl says the huge amount of debt is impacting the state's economy, since people with large monthly loan payments often aren't able to enter the housing market, buy new cars or start a small business.

The debt also takes an enormous personal toll.

"We've talked to borrowers who are putting off starting a family, and really setting up their lives as they want them to be, because of the crushing load of student loan debt,” says Scholl.

She adds that Virginians owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards or car loans, but only student loans lack consumer protections.

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