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Sumter, Jasey, Muoio & Benson HESAA Reform Bill Package Clears Assembly Committee

Bills Would Impose New Regulations to Better Protect Families Planning for College from Taking on Unmanageable Student Loan Debt

Legislation Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Mila Jasey, Elizabeth Muoio and Daniel Benson sponsored to make comprehensive reforms within the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) in an effort to combat student loan debt in New Jersey was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

“The only concern a college student should have after graduating is choosing which job will lead them closer to their goals,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It has become the norm for families and students to take on an overwhelming amount of debt to pursue educational goals. This legislation package will reassess how we distribute state loans and inform families of their options when planning for college.

“We must increase transparency under NJCLASS Loan Programs, better educate families on loan repayment options and requirements as well as help families understand how much they can realistically handle in student loans.”

The first bill (A-4238) – sponsored by Sumter, Jasey and Muoio – would require HESAA to provide an annual New Jersey College Loans in Assist State Students Loan Program (NJCLASS) report to the governor and the legislature. The bill also directs HESAA to develop a student loan comparison information document that would allow a borrower to compare an NJCLASS loan with loans available under the federal student loan programs and provide examples of loan repayment under the NJCLASS program.

“Furthering your education is necessary to advancing a career,” Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “It should never be a burden to do so, and it should be encouraged without fear of debt. This is the first step toward helping families struggling to send their children to college without saddling them with cumbersome loan debt.”

The second bill (A-4239) – sponsored by Sumter, Jasey, Benson and Muoio – would revise the NJ CLASS program to require that applicants first exhaust federal student loans, require income verification and limit total student loan amounts.

“The college experience should be one focused on learning, not overshadowed by mounting loans students’ must pay back upon graduation,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “These bills require the state to be as transparent as possible to families about their student loan options. This is the first step to helping families avoid burdening themselves with debt.”

“College loan debt should not follow you throughout your adult life,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Responsible reform and targeted measures to educate incoming college students on managing loan debt is necessary to helping students make informed choices. It’s time to end this cycle of loading students up with debt that too often takes a lifetime to pay back.”

The bill would make three changes to the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) Loan Program:

1.) Require that the HESAA verify the financial information reported by a borrower or cosigner on an NJCLASS loan application.

2.) Mandate that HESAA deduct the maximum amount of federal direct subsidized loans available to the student from the available NJCLASS loan amount when establishing the maximum annual loan amount for a student borrower. If the available interest rate for federal direct unsubsidized loans is lower than the interest rate available to the student under the NJCLASS loan program, the authority must deduct the maximum amount for federal direct unsubsidized loans available to the student from the NJCLASS loan amount.

3.) Provide that a student borrower’s total loans under NJCLASS may not exceed $150,000.

Both bills were advanced by the Assembly Higher Education Committee, of which Jasey is chair.