Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Annette Quijano, Raj Mukjerji, Jamel Holley and Joe Danielsen to create an office of student loan ombudsman was approved 56-9-11 by the full Assembly on Thursday.
“New Jersey residents are facing a cumulative student loan debt of $30 billion,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “It is imperative that those burdened by student loans, as well as prospective student borrowers, have a state representative in their corner who will protect their rights and monitor an issue that impacts so many New Jersey families.”
“Many students leave college with more debt than they can ever afford to pay back in a reasonable amount of time,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The state must take extra steps to help New Jersey college students plan and manage student loan debt and, hopefully, alleviate some of the burden upon graduation.”
The bill (A-1670) would create the Office of the Student Loans Ombudsman within the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI).
The bill stipulates that the ombudsman will:
1) Receive, review, and attempt to resolve any complaints from student loan borrowers;
2) Compile and analyze data on student loan borrower complaints;
3) Assist student loan borrowers to understand their rights and responsibilities;
4) Provide information and make recommendations to the public agencies, legislators, and others regarding the problems and concerns of student loan borrowers;
5) Analyze and monitor the development and implementation of federal, state and local laws regulations, and policies relating to student loan borrowers;
6) Review the complete student education loan history for any student loan borrower who has provided written consent for review;
7) Disseminate information concerning the availability of the Student Loan Ombudsman to assist student loan borrowers; and
8) Take any other actions necessary to fulfill the duties of the Student Loan Ombudsman.
“With so much at stake, it’s important that our college students have someone they can turn to in order to make sure they are investing in their future properly without being saddled unnecessarily with added debt,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).
“The Ombudsman will be there to help guide college students through the complexities of loan borrowing and lending to make sure they’re getting the best rate for their investment and not being taken advantage of,” said Holley (D-Union).
“Given the growing student loan burden, New Jersey college students need an advocate on their side who will monitor the current landscape to make sure their best interests are protected,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset).
The bill provides that the Student Loan Ombudsman, in consultation with the DOBI commissioner, would establish and maintain a student loan borrower education course that would include educational presentations and materials regarding student education loans.
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.