Legislators pass Oklahoma Student Loan Bill of Rights

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There was big news this week for college students in our state as both OU and OSU announced tuition and fee increases for the Fall of 2021.

That means for many students, they will be taking out bigger student loans.

With student loan debt on the rise across the country, Oklahoma legislators are taking steps to make sure Oklahoma borrowers get a fair shake when it comes to paying off those federally backed loans.

“I took out about $35,000 worth of loans and now I owe about $60,000,” said Reverend Kelli Driscoll Crews.

Crews is talking about her current financial state 15 years after graduating from seminary. The stay at home mom and ordained minister tried to refinance her loans years ago.

“I don’t come from a financially literate company. The loan servicing company acted in a way that they made more money instead of in my best interest,” said Driscoll Crews

To protect student borrowers, the Oklahoma Legislature took action and passed Senate Bill 261, which has been signed into law.

“It’s a bill of rights for students that take our student loans,” said Sen. John Michael Montgomery, of Lawton.

The bipartisan effort makes sure lenders act ethically when dealing with students seeking and refinancing federally backed college loans.

“The average carry is $25,000 out of college. If you are carrying debt, I mean that is a car, but you don’t have the same protections as a car and so we had to do something,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano, of Tulsa.

The new state law makes sure lenders are giving borrowers all options when it comes to payment plans and refinance options. It also makes sure loan service companies put funds to the right accounts.

“Basically make sure that student loan payments are applied correctly and basically that student lenders are being honest with borrowers,” said Montgomery.

Both Montgomery and Provenzano say they have heard horror stories from numerous Oklahoma students, and they want to make sure student loans work the way they should.

“If they are making the payments that need to be made on the loan, then we want to make sure everyone gets a fair shake and gets that debt taken care of,” said Montgomery.

“We are seeing a dwindling of the number of students enrolling in our colleges and universities, so hopefully this will help because they will have all the information up front when they are signing on the dotted line,” said Provenzano.

Legislators say the people they talked to weren’t necessarily looking for student loan forgiveness, just a fair chance in paying their loans off on schedule. 

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