Student loan payments set to restart for the first time since March 2020
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is urging the Biden administration to take action to protect student loan borrowers as payments resume nationwide for the first time since March 2020.
Ferguson and Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell co-authored the letter, joined by 17 other attorneys general, to detail concerns about student loan servicers’ abilities to support borrowers as student loan payments restart.
Borrowers have already reported challenges, including incorrect payment due dates and amounts. The letter highlights one borrower whose monthly payment increased from $759 to $6,843 after a loan servicer appeared to have removed the borrower from an extended repayment plan.
The letter also notes that wait times to speak with loan servicers can last from 60 to 400 minutes. Further, when borrowers are able to speak with a loan representative, many complained that the representatives were unable to answer simple questions or resolve any problems.
The attorneys general encouraged the federal government to direct servicers to pause billing for borrowers experiencing these issues without accruing interest until the issues are fully resolved.
“The Biden administration has done great work to provide relief to student loan borrowers,” Ferguson said. “However, I am deeply concerned that so many borrowers entering the repayment system for the first time in more than three years will create unnecessary chaos. The federal government and loan servicers must take concrete steps to keep student borrowers from additional financial harm through no fault of their own.”
Ferguson’s focus on reforming student borrowing
Ferguson proposed the Student Loan Transparency Act in 2017 as Attorney General-request legislation. The act 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.
In 2018, the Legislature passed the Student Loan Bill of Rights, which Ferguson requested to provide vital protections to Washington state’s student borrowers. The law created a dedicated student loan advocate to help students navigate student loan borrowing, and adopted standards for student loan servicers. The law also provided students with basic guarantees: Student loan servicers must credit borrowers’ payments within one business day, respond to requests for information promptly in writing, and refund fees assessed in error, among other standards.
Ferguson obtained $45 million in debt relief, restitution and costs to resolve Washington’s lawsuit against national loan servicer Navient for numerous unlawful practices harming Washington student loan borrowers. Ferguson has previously obtained millions of dollars in debt relief for thousands of student borrowers who attended for-profit colleges that used misleading and deceptive practices. He has also recovered almost $1.6 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 free of charge.
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.
Additional help for Washington student loan borrowers is available, free of charge, through the Washington Student Loan Advocate. Learn more at https://wsac.wa.gov/loan-advocacy.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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