Thanks to the hard work of advocacy groups like Progress Virginia and legislators like Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Marcia Price, the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman opened earlier this year to help people with student loan debt navigate the often confusing student loan debt repayment process. Since the office opened in January, they have dealt with more than 100 cases. The Ombudsman is there to help answer questions and solve problems that graduates have with their loan servicers.
“People who work hard and play by the rules should be able to raise a family with dignity. Many borrowers took out student loan debt with the promise that a college education was the path to financial security. Now far too many Virginians are saddled with unaffordable debt that they struggle to pay back. Student loan servicers are contributing to the problem by deliberately misleading borrowers and taking advantage of the lack of consumer protections for graduates,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “We’re thrilled that Virginia borrowers now have the loan ombudsman as a resource, but that’s not enough. We need to pass the Borrower’s Bill of Rights so that people with student loan debt have the same protections as people with credit card debt.”
The Borrowers’ Bill of Rights would extend basic consumer protections to borrowers and require loan servicers to be licensed by the Bureau of Financial Institutions, like similar financial providers including banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, and payday lenders. Servicers would also be required to give borrowers accurate information about their loans, apply payments properly, and report accurate payment information to credit bureaus.
A Necessary Bridge [Chris Gentilviso, Richmond Times Dispatch]
“Parsing through student loan details is no simple task. Language from servicers can be difficult to understand. Borrowers face complex choices within the fine print and mistakes can happen.”
“Since opening in January, Kemp’s office has handled more than 100 cases. Some involve recent college graduates with questions about repayment plan options based on the job they’re seeking. Others are borrowers in their 60s, close to retirement, facing issues with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program — an option for employees in some government and nonprofit jobs.”
“Loans should be a doorway to a college education, not a padlock on a healthy financial future. We’re glad to see the commonwealth doing its part to keep an open door.”
How Virginia’s Student Loan Ombudsman Helps Borrowers [Mechelle Hankerson, Virginia Mercury]
“‘The negative behind it is that there are a good number of cases that are stalled. There are things that I can’t fix; things that require legislative fixes.’ [Scott Kemp, the student loan ombudsman said]”
“Sen. Janet Howell, D-Arlington, and Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, sponsored legislation to create Kemp’s position. Howell said it would help students caught up in the “unfair” student loan industry.”
“In recent months, tens of thousands of people across the country have found out they don’t qualify for some public loan forgiveness programs….One of those people who found out they don’t qualify for forgiveness is Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News. He didn’t bring his case to Kemp. Mullin, the assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Hampton, said he took out more than $82,000 worth of student loans for law school and has repaid roughly half. Mullin said he was assured he would qualify for loan forgiveness when the program was introduced in 2007, as long as he made on-time payments for 10 years. Last month, he applied for it — only to be told his loans didn’t qualify.”
“In another complaint, also to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the borrower wrote: ‘We have been harassed over the years. I know for a fact that I’ll be making these payments until the day I die.’”