By Ben Schaefer

More than one trillion dollars—yes, trillion, with a T—is the amount of student loan debt that is outstanding across the country today, and it has almost doubled since 2007. In fact, it’s about $1.2 trillion to be precise. This is placing a tremendous stress on the U.S. economy, and many experts are citing huge concerns for millennials in particular. With this kind of burden on one’s wallet, buying a house, starting a family, and making other life-changing decisions can seem impractical and out of reach. It is because of this that lawmakers around the country have begun seeking solutions to ease the strain on their constituents.

Students at graduationOn Jan. 16, NCSL’s Education and Communications, Financial Services, and Interstate Commerce Committees facilitated a joint conference call for legislators and staff with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The call featured a presentation and discussion with Rohit Chopra, CFPB’s assistant director and student loan ombudsman, regarding financial issues in higher education. The issues discussed included the increasing burden of student loan debt, transparency in financial aid offerings, predatory lending practices geared at college students, and resources that state legislators and their constituents can use to avoid financial pitfalls and assist those struggling to repay loans.

Refinancing one’s loans, applying for income-based repayment, forgiveness plans for public servants, and other options are available, but many consumers are simply unaware of the resources available to them. The CFPB has also created a “financial aid shopping sheet”—voluntarily adopted by over 2,000 colleges and universities in its short lifespan—that allows students to view a simplified breakdown of graduation rates, default rates, estimated debt upon graduation, and more when applying to college.

Consumer financial protection is a topic that requires the shared attention (and jurisdiction) of state and federal policymakers. State legislatures have adopted numerous measures that seek to ensure access to basic financial services, protect the privacy of consumers and their personal financial information, and prevent abusive lending practices. The CFPB hopes to continue working with state lawmakers as they address topics such as student banking, colleges’ marketing agreements with credit card companies, servicemember and veterans’ issues, and student loan servicing standards.

For more information, be sure to also check out the CFPB’s pages on paying for college and repaying student debt.

Ben Schaefer is a policy associate in NCSL's State-Federal Relations division.

Posted in: Public Policy
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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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