Treasurer eyes pilot program to make college debt more transparent

Goldberg: Notices could help students make better decisions about taking on student loan debt

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BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – Students at a University of Massachusetts campus would be alerted to their total student debt load and estimated monthly payoff amounts under a pilot program proposed by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

Goldberg on Wednesday filed a bill that would direct UMass to work with her office and the Department of Higher Education to develop the pilot on one of its campuses. At that campus, enrolled students would receive “an estimate of their total outstanding or pending student loan obligations.”

In addition to the total amount of debt amassed, each student would be given “an estimate of the monthly repayment amounts that a similarly situated borrower may incur, including principal and interest, for the amount of loans the student has taken out at the time the information is provided.”

The treasurer told the News Service that the notices could help students make better decisions about taking on student loan debt and will make them more aware of the debt they are accumulating while attending college.

“We’ve seen that when kids do get the information that they need, they make good decisions. It’s just that there’s so much that they don’t understand,” Goldberg said Wednesday. “This is part of our greater financial literacy work and college savings work also.”

In Worcester, Goldberg’s office has launched a college savings program, dubbed “$eedMA,” that makes college savings accounts available to Worcester kindergartners and seeds them with an initial $50 deposit. Her office also runs “credit for life” fairs at high schools to teach students about debt before they begin applying to colleges.

“But we don’t want to ignore people who haven’t had the benefit of a college savings plan or a credit for life fair, so it’s a way in which to get that information to everyone,” she said of the UMass pilot proposal.

Goldberg’s bill was filed Wednesday for consideration in the next legislative session, which begins in January. If it is approved, UMass would have to report the results of the pilot, including whether it should be expanded across the UMass system, to the Legislature by July 1, 2018.

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