Bill creates a student loan advocate, standards for student loan servicers
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s agency-request legislation providing vital protections for Washington’s more than 800,000 student loan borrowers passed the Legislature today.
The Student Loan Bill of Rights creates a dedicated student loan advocate and adopts standards for student loan servicers.
Senate Bill 6029, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, passed the state House of Representatives with an 87-11 vote. The bill previously passed the state Senate with a bipartisan vote of 35 to 13. The bill will now head to the Governor for his signature.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, previously cleared the House in 2017 with a bipartisan vote of 71-27.
“Too many Washingtonians are struggling to repay more than $24 billion in student loans,” said Ferguson. “The Student Loan Bill of Rights provide borrowers an advocate and requires servicers to treat them fairly.”
More than 800,000 Washington borrowers owed more than $24.4 billion in student loan debt at the end of 2016. There are many different types of student loans, with different limits, varying interest rates and a range of qualifications. When it comes to paying them back, borrowers face a multitude of repayment options with nuanced differences explained in often complex language. The process may be complicated, and the student loan advocate provided by the Student Loan Bill of Rights will help borrowers navigate the process of repayment.
A report released by the Attorney General’s Office earlier this year found that there are significant disparities across gender, income, age and race in student loan borrowing. The report also highlighted a handful of the hundreds of complaints the office received from student loan borrowers about their student loan servicers.
The report and the hundreds of complaints the office receives about student loan issues reinforce the need for legislation like the Student Loan Bill of Rights, which Ferguson originally introduced in 2017.
In addition to creating a student loan advocate for Washington borrowers, the bill provides students with basic guarantees. It requires student loan servicers to credit borrowers’ payments within one business day, respond to requests for information promptly in writing and refund fees assessed in error, among other standards.
“I want to thank Sen. Liias and Rep. Stonier for their leadership on this important issue,” said Ferguson. “Thanks to their support, hundreds of thousands of Washington borrowers will have better protections.”
Student loan work of the Attorney General’s Office
Attorney General Ferguson has successfully introduced student loan legislation in the past. Ferguson introduced the Student Loan Transparency Act in 2017, a bill that requires schools to provide students basic information on their student loans. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House with a bipartisan vote and unanimously in the Senate.
Ferguson is committed to standing up for students by going after predatory for-profit colleges and making sure loan servicing companies play by the rules.
In January 2017, Ferguson filed a lawsuit, along with the state of Illinois and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, against loan servicer Navient. The lawsuit alleges that Navient engaged in a number of unfair and deceptive practices, including misapplying borrower payments and using aggressive and misleading collection tactics.
He also has recovered almost $1.5 million cracking down on debt adjustment companies that charge fees to help borrowers consolidate their federal student loans and enroll in income-driven repayment plans — tasks that borrowers’ loan servicers can and should help them with for free. More information on the office’s student loan work is available here.
To assist student loan borrowers in Washington, the Attorney General's Office has compiled a Student Loan Survival Guide. This guide provides tips and links to resources to help high school students thinking about attending college, former college students who are not able to keep up with their payments, parents of students and everyone in between.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org