TRENTON – The Senate Higher Education Committee and Senate Legislative Oversight Committee will hold a joint hearing next Monday, August 8th, to examine the state’s higher education loan system operated by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.
The hearing comes after The New York Times published an investigative report in conjunction with ProPublica detailing an agency with onerous loan terms that has employed aggressive tactics in the event borrowers were not able to make payments. The Times article profiled a mother who, despite her son’s killing, was informed by HESAA that she was not eligible for loan forgiveness. A ProPublica article appearing in NJ Spotlight subsequently stated that internal emails from the agency show that staffers at the authority were instructed not to tell families that they may qualify for loan assistance unless they explicitly asked.
“We are deeply concerned about the practices that were detailed in news reports and want to hear directly from HESAA, affected families and organizations that have helped to guide students through the borrowing process,” said Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Hudson), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Our focus as a state must be on assisting students in obtaining a higher education and succeeding in the workforce. The kind of tactics allegedly employed by this agency are counter to that mission. The hearing will be an opportunity for the committee members to get an explanation of the policies and practices of HESAA as we consider our next steps.”
“The news reports were very troubling and, if prove true, a dramatic overhaul of our state loan process should be considered. We need to be sure we are properly advising prospective borrowers and not aggressively targeting students and families that are having financial difficulties,” said Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. “The state should be supporting students and young workers in particular, not putting up additional barriers to their future success. I look forward to hearing from all of the parties involved.”
The joint hearing will be held on Monday, August 8, 2016 at 1:00 PM in Committee Room 4, 1st Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, New Jersey. The committees have invited Gabrielle Charette, Executive Director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, as well as advocacy organizations and students to testify on the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) Loan Program.