Oklahoma Lawmakers File Bill To Protect College Students From Predatory Lenders
OKLAHOMA CITY - A new bill filed at the Oklahoma State Capitol could help protect college students against predatory lenders.
The lawmaker who wrote the bill said this is one of the biggest problems contributing to the massive student loan debt problem.
A couple months ago, lawmakers looked into how Oklahomans are impacted by this national crisis. The bill filed this week hopes to solve some of the problems.
There are hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma college graduates. And, many of them owe 10's of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
"I had one lady say, ‘I paid off my bills and I can beat cancer, but I can't beat my student loans,’" State Representative Melissa Provenzano said.
Provenzano said a recent state study shows the average loan debt carried by Oklahoma students is nearly $32,000. That totals more than $14.5 billion in outstanding debt. More than $2 billion of that is debt that's overdue.
"People approach me saying, ‘can you please help somehow? We want to pay our debts to society, we got this education.’ Most often, these are folks with professional careers; doctors, lawyers, teachers," Provenzano said.
The Tulsa Democrat's legislation would create a Bill of Rights for Student Borrowers to try and stop the more predatory tactics. It would give basic protections on the state level for student loans, like credit cards and mortgages.
University of Tulsa Assistant Finance Professor Meagan McCollum said there are only federal rules right now, and not any state protections.
"A lot of these traditional students, 18 years old, don't have experience with lending before, and certainly there's opportunity for students to get taken advantage of," McCollum said.
The bill has a long way to go before it makes it to the governor's desk, but Provenzano hopes it'll pick up steam.
"I think the concern is that people are just trying to get out of their debts. This is not what this bill is about. I think once Republicans and Democrats saw that, it was 'oh okay, it's a practical application of basic lending,’" Provenzano said.
The total student debt in the U.S. has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion.