The National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), submitted comments in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement of its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare regulations on federal student loan debt relief, as authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).
In these comments, NCLC recommends that the Department consider the following as it embarks on its rulemaking process:
- Millions of federal student loan borrowers, and in particular low-income borrowers and borrowers of color, are desperately in need of debt relief.
- To address the urgent need for debt relief as the payment pause ends, as well as to make good on the promise of debt relief made to tens of millions of borrowers, many of whom relied upon that promise in making major life decisions that adversely impact their ability to repay their loans now, the Department should use all tools at its disposal to provide prompt, broad-based debt relief.
- Because one-time debt relief, while necessary now, is not sufficient to help future borrowers or provide a long-term solution to the student debt crisis, the Department should also use this opportunity to strengthen the student loan safety net more permanently. It should do so by promulgating rules that will make it easier going forward to relieve debts that borrowers are unlikely to be able to repay, that the Department is unlikely to be able to collect, or that subject borrowers and their families to unnecessary financial hardship.
- In considering the composition of the rulemaking committee, the Department should recognize that student loan borrowers are the primary stakeholders impacted by the student debt crisis and by regulations for relief, and that they should thus be at the core of this negotiated rulemaking. Representatives reflecting a diversity of borrower backgrounds, experiences, and interests should be included at the table.