New Jersey enacts two laws to help students repay loans

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is pictured in this Jan. 15, 2019 file photo (Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is pictured in this Jan. 15, 2019 file photo (Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

New Jersey took steps Thursday to make it easier for college students to repay their loans, in what Gov. Phil Murphy said was part of his effort to strengthen the state’s investment in education.

At a press conference, Murphy said he hopes the two laws he signed Thursday would send a message to prospective college students that they can get an affordable education in the Garden State.

“The last thing we want is a system so rigid and insensitive that it leaves borrowers — through no fault of their own, by the way — no way out and no way forward,” he said.

One of the new laws will make it easier for borrowers struggling to pay off loans through the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students program to get on a payment plan based on their household income.

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The other allows borrowers who have defaulted on those loans to start an installment plan to repay their debt and repair their credit.

“The most important thing that this legislation codifies is New Jersey’s belief that we encourage our children,” said Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, who sponsored both bills. “We don’t tear them down before they have an opportunity to fly.”

The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, which administers the NJCLASS loans, faced scrutiny during the administration of former Gov. Chris Christie for making it difficult for borrowers to repay their student loans.

But David Socolow, who Murphy appointed to run HESAA in 2018, said the agency recognizes that student loan debt can dog borrowers for years after graduation.

“The burdens of these debts can impact their decisions about changing jobs, buying a home, starting a family, [and] saving for retirement,” Socolow said.

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