It’s been a lengthy week for New Jersey and a longer one for state loan agencies, specifically HESAA. A court review, conducted on Monday, August 8th, came in response to both complaints and discoveries regarding the collection process for student loans in the state.
ProPublica, a New York times publication made headway last month with various queries and investigations over how HESAA and related loaners collected on debt. What they found was troubling, and certainly goes above most collection agency tactics. Backed by the state, private debt collectors can act without court approval; garnishing wages, blocking state refunds, and charging higher interest rates for their loans were just a few aggressive tactics employed.
State legislators such as Robert Gordon are looking to push forward several measures to help relieve debt for New Jersey students and co-signers. Currently there are at least $2 billion worth of unpaid loans in the state.
Robert Gordon also added they needed to end the current collection programs and start from scratch, finding the methods used by HESAA to be troubling.
Everyone affected and directly involved regarding loans were invited to the hearing. While Gabrielle Charette, executive director of the agency, declined to show up, over a dozen families arrived to testify their situation.
Some at the hearing declared the HESAA ruined them. Tracey Timony, a mother who cosigned her daughter’s loan of over $100K, told those at the hearing she was sued after her daughter defaulted on the loans. With few options, she was forced to declare bankruptcy in order to lower the monthly payments.
Some were dismissive of the hearing. One of agency executives simply remarked ProPublica had incited baseless accusations and biased observations. HESAA themselves have stated that despite the complaints voiced on Monday and before, most in New Jersey were entirely satisfied with their loan repayment handling.
Regardless of voiced input, debtors are still faced with an inflexible pursuit for repayment despite their situation. There are plans based on income, and cosigners can still be responsible for the owed amount, even in the face of death or another family crisis. Naturally, these incited demands for better ways to repay and to allow rehabilitation of what is owed.
No doubt, previous findings have shown an aggressive increase in collection attempts by loaning agencies. In 2010, roughly 100 law suits were filed in an attempt to collect defaulted debt. By 2015, more than 1000 lawsuits have been filed.
Post hearing, the court passed a ruling which forgave loans of those deceased. This means cosigners or other parties responsible for the debt would no longer be required to pay it back if the student was deceased. The bill will be sent to the Budget and Appropriations Committee for final consideration.
The secondary measure will require agencies to acquire court permission before they can garnish wages or withhold state tax returns, a powerful contradiction to the currently free reign programs. This will potentially help students and debtors have fairer terms when paying back their loans without suffering intense financial penalties.
Should these proposals pass, this will dramatically help those facing financial turmoil, dealing with seemingly impossible odds from the pressures of collection agencies.