By Sabina Mollot
Late last month, the State Assembly held a hearing in an effort to come up with solutions to the worsening student loan crisis.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein later said that while it’s yet to be determined by his colleagues if this is a matter to be handled legislatively, he personally supports student loan forgiveness. At the hearing, testimony was also given about whether it’s necessary to regulate student loan servicers in New York.
Over the past decade, student loan debt in New York State has grown by 112 percent, bringing the number of borrowers here to just under three million. Prior to the hearing, the Assembly said the stats highlight “the significant impact the student loan industry has on our population and (how it) needs to be examined with greater urgency.”
At the hearing, the Assembly heard from people who work with students battling student loan debt, a problem Epstein believes is the result of unscrupulous lending policies by some private schools.
“People are being misled by schools,” he said. “Trump University is a prime example.”
Another problem is high tuition at private colleges, causing some students in many cases to not be able to complete their degrees.
“A school like NYU, for people who are struggling or have a moderate income, like a family making $70,000, you can come out with $150,000 in debt,” said Epstein. “It’s hard to make choices, like to work for a nonprofit and give back because there are no economic benefits. I hear it a lot from constituents, especially millennials and a lot of parents.”
However, he said he still believes the Assembly needs more information, specifically more from people who work with students in debt, before coming up with any new legislation.
“We want to make sure we’re creating a solution and not a problem,” Epstein said, although there are already a few pending bills aimed at student loan reform.
Assembly Member Ron Kim has a bill that would take the $3 billion earmarked for Amazon marking its territory in Long Island City and use it for debt forgiveness.
Though not a bill yet, Epstein has been floating an idea of loan forgiveness for low income New Yorkers, especially those who work for nonprofit organizations.
Epstein said he also supports more education for students before they sign on the dotted line.
“We need more outreach, more training and more disclosure,” said Epstein. “Schools should have disclosure forms for students to sign.”