Congress considering changes to laws for student loan debt - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Congress considering changes to laws for student loan debt

Verna Branch is in grad school and her debt is piling up. (Source: NBC12) Verna Branch is in grad school and her debt is piling up. (Source: NBC12)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Verna Branch graduated from Virginia State University in 2015. She was ready to enter the workforce, or so she thought.

"I realized OK, some odds are against me. Everybody has my degree. What can I do to make myself different," said Branch.

She's now in grad school and her student loans are piling up.

"Do you feel the weight of it?" NBC12 asked.

"Every day. It's a lot," said Branch.  

Her debt is $53,000 and growing.

"It's frustrating at times, just knowing you want to go to school to better yourself and it costs that much," she said.

Alan Collinge has been sounding the alarm about the cost of college for years. He runs studentloanjustice.org, a grass roots organization dedicated to returning consumer protections to student loans.

"Student loans are the only type of loan in our nation's history to be stripped of the bankruptcy protections," said Collinge.

He says default on your loans and the government can garnish your wages, deny security clearances, even garnish social security and disability payments.

Collinge even questions why the government would bother to fix the problems. He says its making money off student loans.

"For every dollar the government pays out on default claims, they get back about a dollar and 10 or 20 cents," he said.

Branch just feels like in this day and age students don't really know what they are signing up for. 

"If you don't ask no one is telling you," said Branch.

That's exactly what U.S. Sen. Mark Warner is trying to push through congress -- a bill to help student borrowers make smart decisions. It would require people receiving financial aid to get annual loan counseling.

"We've almost made debt so easy to get that we've not also had enough focus on college costs. College costs rise much faster than inflation. Much faster than health care costs," said Warner. 

Collinge doesn't doubt the intentions of any senators working on the issue. He just sees no end in sight.

Warner's the first to agree that there isn't enough being done to tackle the problem.  A self-made millionaire, he worries we are all jeopardizing the financial stability for an entire generation.

"If I'd come out with 50, 60, 70 thousand (dollars in debt) (the way) some kids are coming out with now. I probably wouldn't be standing here," said Warner. "Because I never would have the ability to take the kind of personal risks that I did to start a business."

Branch is already worried what her payment will be like when she graduates.

"It's frustrating honestly to think about food, rent, insurance for cars, health and just daily bills."

Final votes on Warner's bill and several more aimed at student debt relief have been tabled in Congress until the new president is sworn in.

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