Senator Murray: “My message to Washington state student loan borrowers is a simple one: you deserve real relief—and a fair, workable system—and I’m going to keep working to make sure you get it.”
***WATCH: Senator Murray hears directly from student borrowers in Washington state***
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, hosted a virtual roundtable with Washington state borrowers and the state’s student loans ombudswoman to hear directly about how the broken student loan system is holding people back. During her conversation with the student borrowers, Senator Murray discussed how the proposal she laid out last week would help deliver relief for borrowers across the country—and again urged the Biden administration to extend the student loan payment pause until 2023 and work to permanently fix the student loan system before payments resume.
Senator Murray was joined by Stephanie Sampedro, the Washington Student Loan Advocate; Judy, a Washington state borrower who attended the fraudulent Court Reporting Institute and struggled for years to get the debt relief she was owed; and Mike Kuhns, a teacher working in Shelton, Washington—who has only recently become eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) thanks to the temporary waiver period—and his wife, Jennifer Kuhns.
“Our student loan system is broken, but we can fix it,” said Senator Murray. “When a mom from Tacoma or an eighteen-year-old from Spokane just entering college gets a loan to afford higher education, they deserve a system that works for them. It should be easy to enroll in a sensible repayment plan. No one should end up with a monthly payment they can’t afford, and debt relief shouldn’t require making it through a gauntlet of paperwork.”
“This is not too much to ask,” added Senator Murray. “So until we fix our student loan system, I have called on the Biden administration to continue its pause on student loan payments so that borrowers from Bellingham to Walla Walla can get some much-needed relief. I am calling on the President to do so until at least 2023, and—importantly—I am calling on his administration to use this pause to permanently fix our student loan system.”
“Over the last three years, I’ve served the state of Washington and I have heard from over a thousand borrowers who are struggling with their student loan debt,” said Stephanie Sampedro. “Borrower’s trust in the system has been broken, and we have a great opportunity now to fix some of the issues that we know exist, forgive some debt for all borrowers, and work on rebuilding trust with families in Washington.”
“We ended up at a $60,000 student loan level, and we've been just paying that off steadily over the past twenty years. We've never deferred or defaulted or anything. So we really thought we had met the criteria for the teacher loan forgiveness, and now we’re hoping to figure out how to how to do it,” said Jennifer Kuhns. “And it's very confusing, and it has meant a lot of hard decisions for us as a family. I had hoped to get a graduate degree, and we just we couldn’t take on that kind of debt. And now we have an 18 year old, and we’re still at $37,000—the interest just keeps offsetting what we’re paying in. So it just feels like something we’ll be paying off forever unless this waiver process can help us get out from under it.”
“The debt burden that we anticipate our daughter having to take on—we want to be able to cope with that and we want to see if the system could get fixed before she finds herself making astronomical payments. Then we definitely want to advocate for that,” said Mike Kuhns.
“Since the Borrower Defense program began in 2017, it has been proven to be as unwieldy as turning a battleship around in a bathtub for many of the people I’m in contact with that attended Court Reporting Institute—even though they are the very definition of the type of people it was set up to help,” said Judy.
Last week, Senator Murray pushed the Biden administration to extend the student loan payment pause until at least 2023 and use the extended pause to permanently fix our student loan system by: giving struggling borrowers a fresh start by placing those in default before the pause into good standing; making income-driven repayment (IDR) more generous and easier to access; building on the tremendous relief made possible by the administration’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) plan by extending the deadline for the temporary waiver; and providing immediate relief by forgiving some debt for all borrowers.