How Virginia’s new student loan ombudsman helps borrowers

Published: Sep. 23, 2019 at 11:23 AM EDT
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Just over a million Virginians have $38 billion worth of student loans and have made thousands of complaints about confusing rules, ballooning balances and misapplied payments to the federal government in the past three years.

Since January, students have been able to send concerns to Scott Kemp, the state’s first student loan ombudsman.

He’s worked on 107 cases in his first nine months.

“It was a little bit more than we had anticipated, which is a good problem to have because people are finding the office and coming to us for help,” he said in an interview. “The negative behind it is that there are a good number of cases that are stalled. There are things that I can’t fix; things that require legislative fixes.”

Kemp’s primary job is to advocate for borrowers and mediate problems between students and loan providers. He has no regulatory or investigative power.

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Arlington, and Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, sponsored legislation to create Kemp’s position. Howell said it would help students caught up in the “unfair” student loan industry.

Before Kemp’s position existed, borrowers had few options for recourse if they thought their loan was being mishandled.

“I really spend a good amount of time reinstalling hope,” Kemp said. “Most of the people that come to me are just exhausted dealing with their student loan issue on their own.”

In recent months, tens of thousands of people across the country have found out they don’t qualify for some public loan forgiveness programs. Kemp said about 10 of his cases have been related to loan forgiveness programs.

“I have state workers in their 60s, close to retirement for loan forgiveness and can’t get forgiveness,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate.”


The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.