Laws keep students in dark on loan options

Kallen Dimitroff

You approach a car dealership. Unable to finance a vehicle, you are turned away. Unfortunately, the dealer failed to mention a loan program that would have allowed you to afford your new car, and, in all 50 states, the dealer would have committed a criminal offense.

But this very same practice is being applied to a student’s investment in higher education every day — albeit, legally. Because of an unintended consequence of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1965, universities are unable to give students and their families the full truth about how they can finance a college education. Outside of Federal Direct Lending, a U.S. Department of Education loan program, it is illegal for University advisers to refer students to loans from private companies or loans from state run entities, such as the Texas B-on-Time loan, which forgives student debt (to those who qualify) if you graduate in 4 years with more than a 3.0 GPA.

Luckily for students, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-TX Congressional District 15, has put into place efforts to fix the current loan predicament. Hinojosa has crafted proposed amendments which would allow schools the ability to inform students about all of the options available to them and lobbied for the legislation in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Student Government members, including me, are trying to raise awareness of the issue and assist legislative efforts in fixing this problem.

In their final months at the University, former SG Administrative Director Joshua Tang and Chief Justice Philip Wiseman are spearheading an effort to garner support for the proposed changes offered by Hinojosa’s office, an effort that I intend to continue after their graduation. Both Tang and Wiseman have traveled to D.C., done countless hours of research on the topic, stayed in close contact with Hinojosa’s office and, most importantly, begun to engage our campus on an issue that could truly impact students across the country. 

Students need to be made aware of as many options to finance their education as possible. Federally funded loans shouldn’t have a monopoly on the discussions between students and their advisers. Private loans and outside companies often provide services at affordable rates that would allow students to more feasibly pay for college. It is condemnable that students wouldn’t have access to knowledge about these options.

The proposed changes to HR 3371, which are set to be brought to the U.S. House floor in the upcoming legislative session, have tremendous bipartisan support. 

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can get behind the bill, particularly since this specific fix wouldn’t impact federal taxpayers, as programs like the Texas B-On-Time loan and others that the University currently cannot make students aware of are funded by the state or private companies. 

“Our record number of teenagers must become our record number of high school and college graduates and our record number of teachers, scientists, doctors, lawyers and skilled professionals,” Hinojosa said. And his efforts are a significant step in that direction. Allowing college advisers to offer more financial options is a fantastic way to expand student resources without costing the federal government any money at all — particularly in the current fiscal climate.

As the school year draws to a close, it is easy to think of summer plans and not federal legislation. However, it is important to acknowledge that Hinojosa, Wiseman and Tang’s efforts are gaining steam. As someone who follows national and state politics, I find it rare to see efforts that directly impact the lives of students. But every student needs to get involved. That way, we can call upon the Texas delegation in Washington, D.C., to get behind H.R. 3371 and support giving students and their families all the options in paying for a college education.

Dimitroff is a government sophomore from Houston.