RD714 - Annual Report of the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman – January 1, 2021

Executive Summary:

The Code of Virginia directs the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to submit an annual report to the House Committees on Commerce and Labor and Education and the Senate Committees on Commerce and Labor and Education and Health on the implementation and overall effectiveness of the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman (§ 23.1-234). Terms associated with the operation of the office are defined in § 23.1-231.

The following are the key findings from the 2020 annual report.

1. In its first two years of operation, the Student Loan Advocate worked directly with 303 education loan borrowers.

2. Outreach efforts focused on developing and expanding the webpage (schev.edu/studentloan) and participating in panels and conference presentations at state and national events.

3. Data collected on borrower cases identified three main issues for Virginia education loan borrowers: understanding the complexity of the loans, troubleshooting eligibility issues with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and filing Borrower Defense to Repayment claims against Federal Student Aid for borrowers who claimed they were defrauded or misled by their college or university.

4. The office generated a list of federal policy recommendations to address many of the issues that Virginia borrowers experience.

5. Having secured funding from the General Assembly to partner with a vendor for the Qualified Education Loan Borrower Education Course, proposals are being reviewed, with a projected launch of the online learning modules by April 30, 2021.

6. Virginia’s Student Loan Advocate worked with other state advocates to secure relief for borrowers whose education loans were not covered by federal COVID-19 assistance and to extend existing CARES Act relief through the end of the year.