New Jersey lawmakers looking to reform student loan programs

State and federal lawmakers are looking to reform student loan practices in the Garden State.

Lawmakers say the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority has a bad reputation for aggressive lending practices.

Students spoke with lawmakers at a roundtable discussion in Edison Wednesday to express their concerns. Many students say their fear of not being able to pay back loans is preventing them from getting a college education.

"I think that every student that wants to go to school should be able to go to school without the fear of debilitating financial repercussions later on," says state Sen. Sandra Cunningham.

Sen. Cunningham and Rep. Frank Pallone say that part of the fear of student loans also comes from private landers with "predatory lending practices."

Rep. Pallone cited examples of the HESAA not forgiving loans for a mother's son who died or a student who became unemployed while battle cancer.

The congressman has introduced a bill that calls for three main changes for private lenders. The bill would require total loan forgiveness for borrowers if the student becomes permanently disabled, or for co-signers if the student dies. It would allow forbearance in cases of temporary disabilities. Lastly, it would require lenders to disclose default rates and loan forgiveness rules.

Sen. Cunningham and Senate President Stephen Sweeney say a similar package of bills is moving through at the state level. 

Voting is set for Thursday in Trenton.

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