Student debt topic of free talk

Allison Arthur aarthur@ptleader.com
Posted 4/25/17

Student loans and student debt are the topics of a free talk by attorney Ariel Speser, who works for the Northwest Justice Project.

Speser is scheduled to speak on the issues at 3:30 p.m., Friday, …

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Student debt topic of free talk

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Student loans and student debt are the topics of a free talk by attorney Ariel Speser, who works for the Northwest Justice Project.

Speser is scheduled to speak on the issues at 3:30 p.m., Friday, April 28 at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend, 2333 San Juan Ave.

“The most important thing is if anyone has cosigned a student loan, just be aware of the status of that [the loan],” Speser said of one of the tips she plans to give to students as well as parents and grandparents who may have cosigned for a student loan for their child or grandchild. Speser noted that people can obtain a free annual credit report, and that report should show the status of any loan, including ones for which people are cosigners.

Speser said it’s important to pay attention to the status of the loan.

“Whether it’s their child or grandchild who, for whatever reason, defaulted on their loan after graduation, now the legal consequences affects them and the co-borrowers,” she warned.

Speser also said there are two kinds of loans: federal and private. While there are different types of relief available for those who have federal loans, there is no relief available for private loans.

Speser said borrowers can be given incentives to take out private loans. “But the private student loans, there’s nothing they can do. It’s totally up to the discretion of the company, and they are for-profit programs.”

“And both [private and federal loans] are not dischargeable in bankruptcies,” she said of a few things people may not know.

Although there are no four-year colleges or universities on the Olympic Peninsula, the issue of student debt and loans remains a problem because there are a number of grandparents who have cosigned for the student loans.

Although Speser did not have any statistics for loans in default on the Olympic Peninsula, she said the number of defaults in both Washington state and nationally is rising.

“And it seems to be how we saw the foreclosure crisis and problems with people going into foreclosure,” she said.

“The critical point is if they know they are going to default on their loan, they should definitely reach out for help,” she said. “There are student loan credit counselors, and they can serve regardless of income,” she said.

Speser suggested the best place to start for help is the Washington State Bar Association or the Northwest Justice Project. If a person’s income is above a certain threshold, that person may be referred to the bar association.

Speser noted that Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently made headlines by suing the largest private student loan company.

The lawsuit, filed in January in King County Superior Court, accuses Navient Corp., the nation’s largest student-loan servicer, of a number of unfair and deceptive practices, according to the attorney general’s website.

“Those practices included improperly steering financially distressed students toward short-term forbearances, engaging in aggressive and misleading collection tactics, and more,” according to a press release regarding that lawsuit.

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