Student loans are notoriously tough to get away from: Many are immune to bankruptcy, default, and as it turns out, death. As of now, co-signers could be forced to pay off the remainder of debt on private loans if the principal borrower dies with debt outstanding.
A recent Wall Street Journal story brought to light the unfortunate case of one New Jersey family that will end up making more than $85,000 in student loan payments for their son, who died at 25 with loans outstanding. The government is taking steps toward eliminating the loopholes in student lending laws that currently allow private lenders to collect from co-signers, even after the principal borrower has died.
Borrower Protection Act in the Works
The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, named after the New Jersey man who died, would “require additional disclosures and protections for students and co-signers with respect to student loans,” according to Govtrack.us. The proposal, officially raised in May by U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-NJ), would require more disclosure on the part of private lending agencies.
If the act were to pass, private lenders would be required to “clearly and concisely” inform co-signers of their obligations regarding the loan. The act would not force lenders to forgive loans, but it would offer potential borrowers an accurate look at what they can expect from the terms of their loans.
Making Private Loans More Transparent
Not all student loans are created equal in terms of co-signer forgiveness.
Federal student loans may be deferred and eventually refunded if a co-signer or family member submits a note explaining the situation. Privately funded loans are much more difficult to ditch. Companies such as Sallie Mae, Citigroup and Wells Fargo would be among those to face tougher disclosure restrictions under the Bryski Student Loan Protection Act. It should be noted that Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan does offer co-signers forgiveness in the case of death.
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