Attorney General George Jepsen, state Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris and state Banking Commissioner Jorge Perez today introduced a new student loan repayment guide to assist borrowers in Connecticut, which ranks among the top 10 states for average student loan debt.
The online guide is a public education initiative produced by a working group created by the three agencies to focus on the issue of student loan debt, which totals $1.2 trillion nationally and affects more than 43 million borrowers. The guide is available in seven languages and can be downloaded here.
Information was compiled from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Education and Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, to help borrowers understand their loans, their rights and responsibilities, repayment options and how to avoid being a victim of scams.
According to the Project on Student Debt by the independent, nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success, Connecticut ranked seventh in the nation with an average student loan debt of $29,750 for students graduating in 2014 from public and private non-profit four-year colleges. The report showed 62 percent of Connecticut students graduating in 2014 had some level of debt.
"Student borrowers and their families need to make informed choices about paying back their loans," said Attorney General Jepsen. "It is our hope this guide will give them that information, so they don't fall victim to scams and end up paying more than they need to."
“The average student loan debt held by each 2013 Connecticut graduate is over $30,000, almost two thousand dollars higher than the national average. This amount puts Connecticut sixth in the nation for average student loan debt,” said Commissioner Jonathan Harris. “It’s a priority for our agency to ensure that this guide gets into the hands of those who need it most through our outreach and education efforts. We’re committed to doing more to give borrowers in Connecticut the information they need to pay off their student loans successfully, enabling them to spend and invest their money in ways that strengthen our economy.”
“All consumers should be informed when it comes to borrowing money, but it is even more vital to ensure that students understand their obligations as well as their rights when it comes to their student loans since this will probably be the first time that they have taken out a loan. This guide will certainly help,” said Commissioner Jorge Perez. “I am also particularly pleased that it will be available in seven languages, to include as many people as possible.”
The working group is also looking at possible unfair trade practices among companies charging fees to help Connecticut borrowers locate or process their loans.
The resource guide is the latest step taken by the state to address student loan debt. In September, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation to help ease college debt and to adopt a student loan bill of rights. One new law will allow students to refinance their loans at substantially lower rates, thereby lowering monthly payments. The second gives the Connecticut Department of Banking more regulatory oversight over student loans to help ensure fairness in the process.
Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Chambers, Jeremy Pearlman and Lorrie Lewis Adeyemi, head of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Department and Senior Policy Advisor Susan Kinsman are assisting the Attorney General with this initiative.
The Department of Consumer Protections participants in the Student Loan Repayment working group are Nicole Ayala, Marion Slater, Robert Pero, and Lora Rae Anderson. This team is comprised of members from the Department's legal, communications, and investigative teams. They assisted Commissioner Harris in this effort.
Michael Lentini, Financial Examiner in the Department of Banking’s Consumer Credit Division assisted Commissioner Perez in this effort.