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Poll: 91% of Maryland Voters Agree that States Must Act to Ensure Students Are Treated Fairly When Repaying Student Loans

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Whitney Barkley-Denney

Only 12% of Marylanders think that U.S. Department of Education is doing a good job overseeing student loan servicers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) released a poll showing that 91% of Maryland voters agree that the State of Maryland to has a responsibly to protect residents with student loan debt. This includes high level of concern about the student loan debt crisis, and concerns about abusive practices by student loan servicers, such as Navient, which often deepen student’s debt burden.

The polling results also shows that only 12% of Marylanders believe that the U.S. Department of Education is failing to do its job of overseeing student loan servicers and that the federal government should not force states to step aside when addressing the student loan crisis, but work with them, instead. The poll, the first of its kind where survey respondents were asked to weigh in on how their state should oversee federal student loan servicers, was conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services from March 31 to April 5, 2018.

Since 2017, the Department of Education, under Secretary Betsy DeVos’ guidance, has aggressively fought to prohibit state law from regulating servicers and student loan debt collectors. The student loan industry has consistently lobbied the U.S. Department of Education to rollback state efforts from cracking down on their abusive practices. Last fall, 26 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Secretary DeVos clarifying the rights of states to enforce their own laws, pointing to the narrow scope of the Higher Education Act and other federal statutes in the preemption of state laws concerning student loan servicing and debt collection.

“The Department’s action comes following action by a number of states to rein in student loan servicer abuses, and as a number of other states continue consider implementing and enforcing their own state-level protections. Navient, one of the largest servicers on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, and other servicers, have also lobbied heavily in the states to block these reforms. This poll shows that these actions are contrary to what the vast majority of Maryland voters believe should happen,” said CRL State Policy Director and Executive Vice President Diane Standaert.

“State lawmakers must continue their work to oversee student loan servicers who operate in their state—this poll shows that Maryland voters believe so, too,” said CRL Senior Policy Counsel Whitney Barkley-Denney. “The student loan debt crisis is real, and it disproportionally impacts communities of color. Forty-four million Americans share the burden of a still-growing $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, which makes it difficult each year for borrowers to buy a house, start a business, and raise a family. Secretary DeVos should not be in the habit of undermining states from doing what is right for their residents. This recurring push by the Department of Education to preempt state law has to stop.”

“The Department of Education shouldn’t shield student loan servicers and debt collection companies from state law, that’s not the agency’s purpose,” said Marceline White, Executive Director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. “Maryland voters have made their voices clear on this issue and it mirrors the sentiment in other states where state legislatures are fighting to protect student borrowers against predatory student loan servicing companies.”

Poll Key Findings

  • 82% agree that the overall outstanding student loan debt represents a financial crisis.
  • 57% of women with student loan debt say they are struggling, compared to 32% of men who claim likewise.
  • 88% percent say it’s concerning when told about allegations that $4 billion was added to customers’ student loans by putting these borrowers in the wrong repayment program.
  • 95% say that it is important to them that student loan servicers be held responsible for improper practices while operating in the state of Maryland.
  • Over 80% support legislation such as what was considered by the Maryland General Assembly this session, including policy proposals that states can take to compelling student loan servicers to comply with certain basic consumer protections.
  • 75% of likely voters are more likely to vote for a candidate for the Maryland General Assembly who supports reforms to address abuses in the student loan industry.
  • 87% agree that the federal government should not force states to step aside when addressing the student loan crisis, but work with them instead.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Ricardo Quinto at ricardo.quinto@responsiblelending.org.