Shortly after the death of their daughter, a New York couple’s grief was interrupted by a battle with an entity they never imagined: her private student loan lender. Inheriting a dead child’s student loan debt is a problem too many parents have had to face, and one that a new piece of legislation aims to eliminate.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced today that he would push for legislation – called “Andrew’s Law” – that would require private student loan companies to forgive outstanding debt if a borrower dies.
Currently, if a private student loan borrower dies, the debt is passed on to their co-signer, typically a parent.
Inherited student loan debt has become an issue for parents across the country in recent years. With the average student now graduating with more than $ 28,000 in loans, families unsuspectingly taking over that debt can face undue financial hardship.
Such was the case for a Leonard and Linda, a New York couple who joined Schumer during his announcement.
The couple inherited $ 90,000 in federal and private student loans when their daughter Lauren was killed two years ago.
While under law her federal loans were immediately forgiven, the family was left to deal with private student lenders regarding the remaining $ 60,000.
The couple’s story is similar to one that Consumerist reported last July, in which parents not only became the caretakers for their three grandchildren after their daughter’s death, but also took on more than $ 100,000 in med school student loans.
Facing new financial strain, the couple was unable to pay for the loans right away, leading the debt to balloon to more than $ 200,000, with few relief options in sight.
“This legislation will help ensure that student loan debt is one burden that grieving parents do not have to bear,” Schumer said in a statement. “The fact that this happens time and time again shows that federal legislation is needed; we should not be fighting these battles on a case-by-case basis.”
Like the current law regarding the forgiveness of federal students loans when a borrower dies, Schumer’s legislation would require a family member or other representative to provide a certified copy of the death certificate to the lender or loan servicer.
Schumer says that because private student loans make up less than 20% of all student debt, the proposed legislation would not make a significant impact on the larger private loan system and ratepayers.
This marks the second time Schumer has introduced legislation aimed at forgiving private student loans upon the borrower’s death. Back in 2013, he initially introduced “Andrew’s Law” – named after a New York man who died shortly after he graduated college.
“This law may be called ‘Andrew’s Law,’ but it could also be called ‘Lauren’s Law,’” Schumer said in a statement. “And I am sure it could be named after dozens of other individuals throughout the country whose parents have had to battle student loan companies for debt forgiveness in the wake of the tragic loss of their child.”