What We and Our Partners Think of Pres. Obama’s Student Aid Bill of Rights

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Today, President Barack Obama plans to announce the Student Aid Bill of Rights, a set of executive actions and proposals aimed to make the student-loan repayment process better for borrowers.

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

  1. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.   
  2. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college. 
  3. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan. 
  4. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans. 

Here’s what the Higher Ed, Not Debt coalition thinks:

AFT President Randi Weingarten:

“It’s fitting that the president would sign this bill of rights, because if anything in this country needs amending, it’s the rising cost of college and crippling student debt. The value of higher education is clear: It can lead to good jobs and higher wages for graduates and a stronger economy for all of us. At the same time, if we want to strengthen the middle class and put more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans, we can’t stand by as student debt skyrockets and corporations look to higher education as a source of profit. Students deserve rights, starting with the right to a high-quality, affordable higher education.”

Consumers Union:

Consumers Union Staff Attorney Suzanne Martindale: “For too long, student loan servicers have provided inconsistent or misleading information, muddying up a system that’s already hard for students to navigate. These reforms are really important steps toward keep borrowers in good standing on their loans, so they’re making affordable payments instead of sliding toward default.”

Consumers Union Senior Policy Counsel Pamela Banks:“We think an online complaint system could help a lot of people get their problems fixed before their debts spiral out of control.  We want the information in this database to be open and accessible so we can all spot trends, bad actors, and good actors.”

Generation Progress Executive Director Anne Johnson:

“For too long, borrowers who have tried to keep up their loan payments have struggled when servicers don’t work with them to do so. Common-sense requirements—including better communication standards from servicers to borrowers and applying prepayments to loans with the highest interest rate—are long overdue.

“The creation of a centralized complaints system will help ensure that the voices of students are heard when servicers, lenders, and debt collectors are not responsive to their needs or the law. The centralized complaints system will also help ensure that the Department of Education hears first-hand from students who are too often taken advantage of by for-profit institutions that are more interested in federal aid dollars than educating our country.

“We applaud the president for his announcement and look forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure the needs of students and borrowers are met now and in the future.”

Higher Ed, Not Debt Campaign Manager Maggie Thompson:

“We applaud the president’s action to create a Bill of Rights for students and borrowers. Every American deserves access to the resources to pay for college, an affordable loan repayment program, and reliable information about their loans. Students pay a high price for a higher-education system that tolerates colleges and loan servicers that profit off of federal education dollars. Today’s announcement outlines the initial steps that the administration and Congress must take to better protect student loan borrowers.”

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross (abbreviated):

“Student loan borrowers have done the right thing, working hard to get an education and taking on the personal responsibility to pay for it.

“President Obama understands that over the years the system has been tilted against them. Today he announced he’s taking more action on reforms to ensure education remains the path to success, instead of a financial albatross on borrowers and our economy.

“Common sense changes like making sure student loan borrowers have the same consumer protections as they would have with other loans and the federal government is making it as clear, convenient and easy as possible for borrowers to repay their loans.

PHENOM Executive Director Natalie Higgins:

“We are thrilled President Obama continues to take significant steps to support increased access and affordability to public higher education. The Student Aid Bill of Rights will help address the growing student debt crisis. PHENOM was founded with the belief that students have the RIGHT to quality, affordable and accessible public higher education. We look forward to working with the administration, Congress, and local leaders in Massachusetts to ensure our student borrowers are not being crushed under the burden of student debt.”

Student Debt Crisis Executive Director Natalia Abrams:

Today at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, President Obama will announce his proposal for the Student Aid Bill of Rights. We are finally seeing the hard work of advocates and borrowers pay off with substantive results. This is by far one the most comprehensive proposals for student loan borrowers since the formation of Student Debt Crisis. We believe every borrower deserves access to quality, affordable education and the right to strong consumer protections for their student loans. The White House is making an important step in the right direction, and we urge Congress to stand with borrowers across the nation by adopting this proposal into law.

“It is an honor to hear President Obama stand up for the rights of student loan borrowers, and we are thrilled that he announced the Student Aid Bill of Rights today in Atlanta, GA. This all-inclusive proposal, once fully implemented, will go a long way to help struggling borrowers everywhere.”

TICAS President Lauren Asher (abbreviated):

“We applaud the President’s commitments, announced today, to better serve the nation’s federal and private student loan borrowers, including those in financial distress and those who have been wronged by loan servicers, loan collectors, or schools.

“Today’s Presidential Memorandum takes many steps that we have advocated for and that borrowers urgently need, including a coordinated system for accepting, tracking, and reporting complaints, a single portal for borrowers to manage their federal loan accounts, fairer and more consistent treatment for borrowers in bankruptcy, elimination of the need for borrowers in income-driven repayment plans to submit annual income information that the government already has, and regular public reporting of more comprehensive loan data.”

USSA President Maxwell Love and Vice President Alexandra Flores Quilty (abbreviated):

“A centralized student compliant system and streamlined repayment plans are great ideas and principles. We have been communicating the concerns of our 1.5 million student members and former students to the Department of Education since a group of 36 students were arrested outside of Sallie Mae’s DC office in 2012.

“Our members look forward to seeing the Department take these principles and turn them into unalienable rights.”

Young Invincibles Executive Director Jen Mishory:

“We’re thrilled to see President Obama taking a significant step to give students struggling with poor loan servicing and deceptive debt collection practices a voice through a centralized complaint system. Additionally, students have told us for years that tracking loans across multiple servicers confuses the repayment process; a central point of access for monitoring student loan rates should minimize this challenge.”

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