The Student Aid Bill of Rights: Enhancing Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

The single most important investment anyone can make in their future is to pursue higher education. But the one thing I often hear from families is that they are worried about the cost.

Too many students are graduating from college feeling burdened by their student loan debt. The Obama Administration has – and will continue to – make college more affordable through increased Pell Grants and education tax credits, while improving transparency so that students and families have the information they need to select schools that provide the best value. Today, we are building on the Administration’s success helping students manage their debt and stay on track.

My team at the U.S. Department of Education has been working with our federal partners to make sure that student loan borrowers are getting accurate information about how to avoid – or get out of – delinquency and default. And we’ve been doing more to improve student loan servicing and protect borrowers so they receive the treatment and respect they deserve, regardless of the type of loan they have.

But across the Administration, we want to do more.

That’s why today, President Obama has proposed a new Student Aid Bill of Rights that outlines a series of new actions that direct the Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Social Security Administration, to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans.

studentbillofrights

Working together, the Obama administration will:

  • Develop a state-of-the-art – and simple – process for borrowers to file complaints involving their federal student aid, and working with a team across the federal government to figure out the best way to address those complaints.
  • Make sure the banks that service federal loans are held to high standards and provide better information to borrowers; and raising the bar for debt collection to make sure that fees charged to borrowers are reasonable and that collectors are fair, transparent, and help borrowers get back on track.
  • Use innovative strategies to improve borrowers’ experience and improve customer service. At the Department of Education, we are committed to finding new and better ways to communicate with student loan borrowers and to creating a centralized, easier process for repaying loans. And we will see what changes to regulations and legislation, including bankruptcy law, may be necessary to protect borrowers – regardless of the type of loan they have.
  • Work across the federal government to see what lessons can be learned from similar situations, like mortgage and credit card markets and other performance-based contracts, to help us make sure that ultimately, we are continually strengthening consumer protections for students.

It is our responsibility to make sure that the more than 40 million Americans with student loans are aware of resources to help them manage their debt, and that are doing everything we can to be responsive to their needs. The Student Aid Bill of Rights builds on the efforts our Administration has been taking over the last several years to make college more affordable and continues to chip away at the burden of student debt – so no one should feel overwhelmed by their student loans.

Agree with me? Take the pledge for a Student and Borrower Bill of Rights:www.whitehouse.gov/college-opportunity

Arne Duncan is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

21 Comments

  1. I have yet to receive a bill about my loans, my father in law was in icu for month and my life spiraled last year, finally on the backside and I get a collection agency notice stating they want an additional 12k for an unfinished education, all upfront then I can start making payments on the loans…

  2. I will simply say this. I have a son who was 146th in his class of 530. He had a GPA of 95.6. Would you not consider that a good GPA for a 6A school district? He could not get scholarships or grants for college at all. Mainly because of the top 10% rule and not being poor or having numerous other siblings. So lets punish the student who has done well and the parents who actually work in the middle class and pay all the bills for this county. Is it not the Education Departments responsible for developing the programs for all schools to be equal. So how is it that one kid with 100 students in his/her class gets money but a student that has 530 cannot even thought they have the same GPA. I cant get money for my son cause Im in the middle class and decided to have one child. So my bad, i have to pay for my childs schooling and he gets to be in debt for the first 15 years of his life. A student should be able to get grants and scholarships for working so hard in shcool and obtaining a high GPA. Instead some students that barely getting by with a 70 GPA are receiving grants and loans becuase his or her parents failed them, dont have jobs, living off government (some deserving most not) and using goverment grant education dollars to pay bills rather than use for college. Heck, interest rates on education loans are higher than home loan now. The nation wants everyone to have an education but you will pay for it and continue to pay for it even after you pay your loans off. You have to pay for all the ones that are not paying. Wow really, Congressman Duncan lets give free educations to those who contribute nothing. Someone want to explain to my student why he cant get any money when he does well in school. You have to be either be a genius or poor to get the money. Being in the middle you get nothing but a BIG BILL. The American way is not work hard, have good ethics and character. But be a prison inmate or a slouch and get free stuff. Thats the American way now. Wellcome to the middle class American we got the bill.

  3. I think this sounds great……. However, what I don’t understand is why someone like me, who has worked as a public school classroom teacher since 1997, cannot get loan forgiveness. I have been paying my student loan for 18 years! I still have about 5 years to go. It is ridiculous, my oldest child will be in high school by then. I have never, EVER missed a payment. I am a public servant and I have worked in very low income schools. I truly don’t understand why the forgiveness program doesn’t apply to me. I would love an explanation for this! I have reached out multiple times over the years and get denied every time. I would honestly appreciate if someone in authority could contact me about this.

  4. I am a debt collector for a large, private, research university where I like to think I provide the type of service the bill of rights spells out. I see on the front lines the frustration and confusion borrowers go through and I would be happy to help implement this new initiative.

  5. Dear Mr. Secretary,
    Over the last 5 years we have indicated we have a number of solutions to serving student borrowers and management of student debt all for FREE.
    Regardless of our efforts we do not get a response to our wanting to help, only silence.
    We at the National Student Clearinghouse again request the Departments approval to access the Federal Direct Loan Program through the loans servicers. Thank you for your consideration.

  6. This is great but a little late. My son has $75,000 in federal loans. He is being lied to and harassed by federal contractors and Federal Education Dept.
    He’s a 30 yr old Hispanic American with BA in Economics(STEM PROGRAM) in a four (4) year completion period, where they cannot
    find students, as well as an MBA. The norm has always been a 10 yr repayment plan, my son is on a -31 year plan thanks to the Great Recession and inactivity by the federal government, Hispanic community and programs like My Brothers Keeper to address his situation for him and other Hispanic college graduates. There have been Executive Orders by the past three Presidents to do everything possible to improve the educational attainment of Hispanic Americans. My son is just one example of what has happened to college graduates, I believe that the President should increase the coverage of My Brothers Keeper Program or set up an Executive Order to assist Hispanic college graduates who are left out and unable to receive assistance as directed by the past three failed directives. It is time for Hispanic Americans to be recognized
    just the same as African Americans were in 1965 in Selma, Alabama.
    It is up to you to convince the President to take action now. All of the current programs are well meant but they barely scratch the tip of the iceburg.

  7. This is important, especially the piece about quality customer service, reliable information and fair treatment when repaying loans.

    But even more important is making sure students fully understand what they are getting into when they sign up for a loan. Yes, there is online entrance loan counseling, but the print is very small and students are too used to downloading an app and hitting “I accept/I agree” to the acceptance agreements without actually reading the terms. The process is too similar.

    It’s critical that students have to fully walk through what repaying that loan (which would include any previous loans taken out) will really mean when they graduate (or if they leave college prior to graduating) and are earning money. Or if they aren’t earning money. The SLOPE loan calculators are useful tools, but only if the students are using them and understanding them. Every time a student takes a loan, completing a SLOPE calculator should be requirement. Every student who receives a loan should be required to take money management classes (online is fine) through the college’s financial aid office. Those classes can’t be simply offered, they need to be REQUIRED. If a student doesn’t complete the class in a timely manner, then the next term’s loan isn’t disbursed until it is. Online money management classes about debt servicing needs to be completed every term a student is using student loan money. One time is not enough.

    Many colleges require students to complete an online drug and alcohol awareness course prior to enrolling. An online, interactive course about financial aid and student loans prior to enrolling should also be a requirement for any student receiving aid.

    These are hoops to jump through, but it’s better to jump through small hoops at the beginning than try to negotiate through a $30,000, $50,000 or $100,000 student loan debt.

  8. The spirit of Student Loan is great and I think the program was meant to do good for those who cannot afford paying their higher education specially the minority population. However the higher education and financial institutions have abused the program to the point that it looks more like an open sky prison or a prison without walls. Student Loan has ruined the american dream of many well educated Americans because their earning power cannot afford to repay the student loan and have the American Dream the same time. Student Loan has become almost an American economic equality Paradox: You borrow more to learn for a job that pay you less.

  9. I am responding to the President’s Student aid Bill of Rights legislation that I feel doesn’t address the Public Service program. I think that as a parent of a child who works for a public school system who works in their technology department and does not teach in the school system, she should be eligible for the same benefis as a teacher. Secondly, I feel that having to wait 10 years to benefit from the forgiveness of her loan balance provides little relief to to the debtor.

  10. All student can study in peace if there is relief at the end of all the courses and not the burden and stress of paying on loans for the rest of their lives.

  11. Hi, I graduated with a Masters degree in 2008, right around the time things went downhill in Ohio. I was was working in real estate because no one was hiring at the time. Of course our wages were cut by 5% and my loans went to forbearance. I didn’t have a payment but my loans double since interest hit. I hope the legislation addresses that, because I know other people it happened to. So many unforeseen circumstances happened at that time. I am swimming in debt and the wages in Ohio are low compared to the cost of my education. I will be in my 50’s before I pay them off.

  12. Morning Arne,

    What about offering tax exceptions on investment withdraws as long as the full amount withdrawn is paid towards student loan debt (private & federal)? For example, I’ve got $20k private & $5k federal & my 401k is $15k after 3 years of working at Nike. I want to take the monies & pay it all towards my student loans but I can’t because of the penalties, fees, taxes, ect. Again, just an idea to help graduates pay off student loan debt which in turn will lower our nations debt & free up monies to reinvest/spend like buy a home.

    Thanks for your time & consideration in this matter.

    Sincerely,

    Ben

    • You are taxed when you withdraw the funds, but can deduct tuition and fees paid at the end of the year. Tuition and fees charges is on the student’s 1098T statement put out by the school.

  13. I think this is wonderful. What I don’t understand is why someone like me, who has worked for Maryland State Government for almost 43 years, and with the Maryland State Department of Education for 41 years, cannot get loan forgiveness. I have been paying my student loan for 15 years! I still have about 5 years to go. I have never missed a payment. I am a public servant and I am an Education Program Specialist and I just don’t understand why the forgiveness program doesn’t apply to me. I would love an explanation for this. If someone in authority could contact me about this, I would be most anxious to speak with that individual.

  14. Many folks are in my situation. Lost high paying job in last downturn. Now making nine dollers an hour, and cant come close to paying off 35k student loan. What to do.

  15. Why are student loan servicers charging 7.9% interest when I can borrow money on a home for 3.5%?

    Middle class Kids and parents are being taken to the cleaners by these people and our legislators look the other way.

  16. Students are not victims. A large portion of borrowing, perhaps as much as two thirds, ends up in the student’s pocket for “indirect expenses”. Furthermore, the existing payment options for federal student loans take away the incentive for students to borrow within their means and make my job as a financial aid advisor more difficult. It is one thing to limit payments for students at or near the median undergraduate debt of about $30K to 10 percent of income, but it becomes a handout and encourages abuse when we are talking about graduate level exceeding $100,000 (why not stay enrolled forever and just keep using Graduate Plus loans which have no limit at all?). Not counting VA payments as federal aid also encourages abuse. Veterans who are fully covered by the GI Bill pocket all federal aid – Pell grants, loans and all. Limits are paramount.

  17. What about the ‘private’ student loans? No one wants to help on that front. My son and I are not economically viable and never will be.

  18. Please don’t forget about those of us who are working career college graduates that are indebted as a result of pursuing Advanced college degrees. You make the choice of continuing education to ensure job stability but end up with mounds of debt especially when you have a financial setback like job layoffs or divorce. In many ways, we are worse off than the single college kids..we have responsibilities that force us to choose among priorities and repayments.
    Glen

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