March 23, 2021

Sen. Hanna M. Gallo at (401) 276-5583

 

Senate OKs Gallo resolution seeking
protections for student loan borrowers

 

STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved a resolution sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo asking Rhode Island’s Postsecondary Education Commissioner to form a work group to identify ways Rhode Island can protect student loan borrowers.

“Higher education or job training is a necessity for a successful career, but it’s become increasingly common that its high cost results in crushing personal debt. Student debt is an enormous burden on individuals and families, and can multiply the effects of personal crises if the borrower cannot stay current on their loans. Onerous late fees and collections practices from lenders can make it impossible for borrowers to get back on track, turning temporary problems into permanent ones,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick). “Ultimately, we need the federal government, which is involved in most student loans, to make major changes, but in the meantime, Rhode Island needs to identify all the tools that are available to us to protect student loan borrowers in our state.”

The resolution notes that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Education had removed protections for student loan borrowers, including barring debt collectors from charging high fees — up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest — on past-due loans.

While the Department of Education later instituted protections related to the pandemic, including suspension of loan payments, halting collections on defaulted loans, and a 0% interest rate, those protections are temporary, and currently authorized only through Sept. 30.

Outstanding education debt in the United States has tripled over the last decade. As of 2020, student loan debt in the United States totals approximately $1.67 trillion. In Rhode Island, the average student loan debt is $31,781.

The resolution (2021-S 0281) asks the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner to form a work group to conduct a thorough review into how Rhode Island can protect student loan borrowers and to make recommendations by Jan. 14, 2022, to the General Assembly regarding student loan protections. The resolution asks that the recommendations consider the best agency to provide those protections, and necessary statutory and regulatory amendments. The work group should include the Treasurer’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, private student loan providers, members of the Rhode Island General Assembly, current and former students with student loan debt, and other key stakeholders, the resolution states.

 

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