Connecticut Law Review Volume 46 - Issue 1

Promissory Education: Reforming the Federal Student Loan Counseling Process to Promote Informed Access and to Reduce Student Debt Burdens

Student loan debt in the United States is now estimated to exceed one trillion dollars. However, in obtaining financial assistance, many postsecondary students do not contemplate the long-term implications of the legal obligations that they accept as conditions for receipt of student loan funds. This mass failure to realize the requirements attached to signing promissory notes and entering into binding loan contracts has recently led to several rounds of reform by the federal government. Unfortunately, these reforms have done little to stem the tide of rising student loan debt, most of which is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. This Article examines how the student debt crisis showcases the newest front in the battle for access to higher education. It outlines the rapid escalation of university and college costs over the last thirty years and the potential harms that accompany those costs. These harms extend beyond the direct financial impact on students to the civic community and economic growth of the country. To help ameliorate these harms, the statutory provisions of the Higher Education Act and their implementing regulations need amendments regarding the counseling that is attached to the disbursement of student loans for all institutions whose students receive Title IV aid. If adopted, these statutory and regulatory amendments would promote informed access without diminishing the quality of higher education or turning students’ investments in their futures into unsustainable burdens.

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