Over the years I have become convinced that based on the mammoth profits this state agency (that supposedly serves the students of New Jersey) has raked in, there must be enough people who have borrowed from HESAA/NJClass to fill a stadium. That means there are far more of us then there are "bondholders" who made the "investment" in bonds that eventually became student loans with absolutely zero protections for student borrowers (i.e. you.) More on that in later posts, but suffice to say that if all of us or even half of us were *organized* into a single movement against HESAA there would have to be changes made that would actually help us out of this debt hole the state is profiting from, instead of the business as usual that keeps us down here for decades.
Now is the time to start taking our own lives and futures back from such power brokers, the cynical rich profiting off the backs of poor students -- yeah who make up the lion share of NJClass borrowers. Don't think for a minute that stereotype of the shiftless youth cashing in on "easy money" has even one iota of truth. No f'ing way, these are hard times and if anything this was a form of "stimulus" that ultimately injected money into the economy and while the bankers and money lenders lined their pockets with our futures. We need to unite to change all that.
I am pleased that I've heard from so many people about their loans, but I want you to do more than tell me your story, I want your feedback and suggestions and ultimately your commitment to yourself and the rest of us that you will do your part to end this corrupt state of affairs. To this end I present to you a list of things I think we all agree need to change at HESAA. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or suggestions.
Minimum Customer Service Demands
- Real entry interviews with a financial aid representative (not online) for all NJClass borrowers that fully explain the terms of the loans and the promissory notes they are about to sign. Nearly every borrower was not given even basic information about their loan, aside from legalese on some online document.
- Accountability for HESAA staff giving out wrong information and/or not communicating all options to borrowers concerning deferment and/or forbearance.
- A real-time complaint system that will result in something actually happening and leniency on borrowers who made financial decisions without knowing there was hardship deferment as a result of negligence of a HESAA rep.
- Full training for HESAA staff concerning phone etiquette and respect for the individuals that are exploited by student debt for some bondholders’ profit. This especially concerns the collections department, but should be for all levels of the organization as there are some folks high up who really don’t take borrowers needs into consideration. The “tough shit you borrowed this” attitude is another way of saying this.
- An end to harassing and bullying collections tactics.
Minimum Financial Rule Change Demands
- Income-based repayment for NJClass loans is a primary demand, at the very least people need to be able to make payments that are within their income range and without further penalty to the borrower.
- (re)Introduction of subsidized loans so that loans don’t accrue interest while in school, prior to earning a degree that will in theory pay for the loan. The lack of subsidized loans makes borrowers pay much more than they ever received.
- Loan forgiveness after a certain length of time, like federal loans that have been faithfully paid for 20 years.
- Consolidation of loans under $30,000. Who came up with this rule and why? Either way it works to confuse the borrower and accrue more interest for HESAA.
- Billing periods of at least 30 days that give the borrower a more realistic window to pay without risking being sent to collections for late payment.
- Discharge of all debt if a borrower dies, i.e. they can’t come after your family if the student has died. It is currently a rule they can legally put a family member in collections for not paying these loans.
Long Term Goals of the Movement
- Reinstatement of financial aid grants and programs that help students pay for college.
- We need a statewide cap on all tuition. New Jersey has some of the highest tuition in the country but according to the Star Ledger is also one of three states whose poverty rates have increased while others have improved slightly.
- Bankruptcy rules need to change to include discharge of NJClass loans. If you can do it for credit cards you should be able to for student loans, we need that and other protections written into the law.
- Last but not least: Fully funded public universities and colleges and a complete abolition and forgiveness of all student loans. I’m not saying it’s happening tomorrow, I’m just saying we all would like to see this happen and it's worth all our efforts to work towards this noble goal.