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Bill passed by Legislature to help with student loan crisis

OLYMPIA, Washington — Legislation providing vital protections for Washington’s more than 800,000 student loan borrowers passed the Legislature on Friday. The Student Loan Bill of Rights creates a student loan advocate and adopts standards for student loan servicers.

Senate Bill 6029, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, (D-Lynnwood), passed the state House of Representatives with an 87-11 vote. The bill previously passed the state Senate with a bipartisan vote of 35 to 13. The bill will now head to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, (D-Vancouver), previously cleared the House in 2017 with a bipartisan vote of 71-27.

“Too many Washingtonians are struggling to repay more than $24 billion in student loans,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who had requested the legislation. “The Student Loan Bill of Rights provide borrowers an advocate and requires servicers to treat them fairly.”

More than 800,000 Washington borrowers owed more than $24.4 billion in student loan debt at the end of 2016. There are many different types of student loans, with different limits, varying interest rates and a range of qualifications. When it comes to paying them back, borrowers face a multitude of repayment options with nuanced differences explained in often complex language. The process may be complicated, and lawmakers say the student loan advocate provided by the Student Loan Bill of Rights will help borrowers navigate the process of repayment.

In addition to creating a student loan advocate for Washington borrowers, the bill provides students with basic guarantees. It requires student loan servicers to credit borrowers’ payments within one business day, respond to requests for information promptly in writing and refund fees assessed in error, among other standards.

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