Press Release – SEAN REYES FAILS TO PROTECT UTAH STUDENT BORROWERS

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CONTACT:     Chase Thomas | chase@betterutah.org

 

Salt Lake City, UT – Twenty-one Attorneys General from across the nation joined together this week to oppose recent actions from the Trump Administration repealing consumer protections for student loan borrowers. Conspicuously absent from the letter sent to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing this opposition is Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.

“Sean Reyes has indicated that one of his priorities as Attorney General has been to protect consumers, particularly those subject to fraud and scam. Failing to sign on to this letter signals this priority does not extend to protecting students,” said Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel for Alliance for a Better Utah.

The Obama Administration had worked to protect student borrowers by ensuring borrowers were provided with accurate information and holding loan servicers accountable. As the letter sent to Secretary DeVos points out, the guidance revoked by the Education Department “are the common-sense requirements (i) that servicers apply borrower overpayments to loans bearing the highest interest rates unless the borrower instructs otherwise, and (ii) that servicers inform borrowers of income-driven repayment options before placing borrowers in forbearance or deferment.”

Utah is generally known for having low average student debt, ranking 49 out of 51, with Utah students holding an average of $18,921 in debt. Notwithstanding these low averages, as of January 2015, there were 315,000 student borrowers in Utah with a combined outstanding debt of $7,395,075,000. Utah is also ranked well in national student loan default rates compared to other states, with a default rate of 9.9%. However, this means that over 30,000 Utahns face default on their student loans with thousands more at risk of default.

The timing of these actions from the Trump Administration and Reyes’ inaction comes nearly five years after the total student loan debt in the United States reached $1 trillion, a total that now stands at over $1.3 trillion and affects one in five American households.

“With his inaction, Sean Reyes is once again placing politics over principle,” continued Thomas. “Instead of joining twenty-one fellow Attorney Generals and fighting for the best interests of student loan borrowers, Reyes is standing with Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos — the former having founded a university that allegedly defrauded thousands of students and the latter possibly having ties to the student loan debt collection industry. This alignment shows the true colors of our Attorney General and raises the question of whether Reyes is more interested in protecting his favor with Trump or protecting his constituents.”

It was only earlier this year, shortly before his inauguration, that Donald Trump paid $25 million to settle litigation brought by alleged fraud victims of Trump University. It was also earlier this year during her confirmation process that Betsy DeVos was found to possibly have extensive financial ties to a debt collection agency doing business with the Education Department.

Thomas concluded: “We need elected officials who are willing to stand up to protect their constituents rather than prioritizing their personal interest in currying favor with the Trump Administration. In the face of this failure to act, we would like to remind Sean Reyes that ‘sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.’”

The letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from the coalition of twenty-one Attorneys General can be found here.

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About the Alliance for a Better Utah:
Alliance for a Better Utah is a good government advocacy and watchdog organization based in Salt Lake City. The organization works to improve the lives of all Utahns by ensuring balance, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at www.betterutah.org.

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