Casten Questions Illinois Attorney General Employee on Challenges Due to the Administration’s Sabotage of Student Borrowers

June 11, 2019
Press Release
Congressman’s questions at House Financial Services Committee address lack of oversight Secretary DeVos has imposed on student loan servicers

“We don’t have a partner on the federal level in protecting students. In many ways we have an opponent.”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06), today at a House Financial Services Committee hearing, questioned Illinois Attorney General Office’s Student Loan Ombudsman and Supervising Attorney, Joe Sanders, on Secretary DeVos’ continued sabotage of federal protections for student loan borrowers. Secretary DeVos has blocked the Department of Education from conducting its legally-mandated oversight of the student loan servicers, leaving borrowers at the mercy of companies whose profit incentives are not always aligned with students interests. Not only does the Education Department’s dereliction of duty undermine borrowers’ ability to pay off their loans, it makes it difficult for state Attorneys General, including Illinois’, to step in and protect their own citizens.

To see Casten and Sanders exchange, click the image above or click here.

Casten: “I am extremely proud to come from Illinois where the efforts that you’ve led, Mr. Sanders, through your ombudsman and through the Student Loan Bill of Rights, one of the best programs in the country. Can you just talk a little bit about what challenges you have, in this moment, with the Trump Administration and Secretary DeVos calling back on obligations that are not being done federally that you have to step up and fill?”

Sanders: “Absolutely, so you know the office of the Attorney General in Illinois has been active in the student lending space for many years. We will continue to be active going forward. I think that the big change that we have seen is that we don’t have a partner on the federal level in protecting students. In many ways we have an opponent. So, instead of sharing information with state Attorneys General to determine ways to help ours, we have the Department of Education issuing a notice of interpretation saying that state’s cannot enforce their own laws, that they can’t access the information, law enforcement needs to determine if they’re in violations of our laws. We have to spend our time fighting against the federal government. So, for example, that notice of interpretation has been discredited by several courts, but it takes our time and effort away from helping student borrowers, whom we have to fight roadblocks that are thrown up like that.”

Americans hold over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Some states, including Illinois, supplement the federal protections offered to student loan borrowers. State Attorneys General can acquire information about difficulties experienced by student loan borrowers through consumer complaints submitted to their offices by the citizens of their states. Illinois has gone even further, enacting a robust Student Loan Bill of Rights that requires student loan servicers to provide borrowers struggling to make payments with information about all of their repayment options.