NewsNational News


Advocates push for student borrower bill of rights as colleges charge new COVID-19 fees

Posted at 9:01 AM, Sep 02, 2020

Colleges and universities continue to struggle with coronavirus outbreaks. Some are charging new fees for testing and virtual learning. It's something student consumer groups have mixed feeling about.

“Passing along $500 for testing that the school's not even going to get the results back in time to make decisions about what students to quarantine or what parts of campus to shut down, that just seems unnecessary,” said Kaitlyn Vitez, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Campaign Director.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recognizes there are increased costs with virtual learning, and if students are getting an improved virtual experience, then fees may be reasonable.

But at the same time, students shouldn't be charged for things like athletic facilities if they are not accessible.

Meanwhile, many states are passing or discussing student borrower bill of rights and setting up specific oversight or task forces.

“Me and my colleagues, many of which served at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, looked around and realized that Washington had really walked away from the fight,” said Seth Frotman with the Student Borrower Protection Center.

The Student Borrower Protection Center is among the groups that lobbied for California’s new student borrower bill of rights, which aims to protect people from loan servicing abuses.

The law creates standards that require loan servicers to apply payments in a way that minimizes extra fees or charges, improve record-keeping, and train staff to provide borrowers with accurate information about their repayment options.

It also establishes a student loan advocate to review complaints, gather data, and provide reports to the state legislature.

“We should all agree on the fact that if you took on debt to chase the American dream, lets at least make sure you don’t get ripped off as you try to pay it back,” said Frotman.

About 45 million Americans get a student loan bill every month. They average almost $400 per month, according to the Federal Reserve.