Texas Senate addresses student loans wrong

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

UT will implement a new policy in 2019 requiring the University notify students once a year regarding how much they owe in student loans. As an individual who has taken out student loans and relies on them to help fund my education, I completely disapprove of these notifications. They are excessive and burdensome when the information needed to be financially informed is already available for students. At the same time, these notifications can be mentally exhausting for students. 

Senate Bill 0887, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2017, mandates that Texas schools of higher education send out debt notifications regarding loan accumulation to students annually in order to help them better manage their debt and improve financial literacy.

“It’s a really great way to let students know ‘Here’s where you are right now in one single place’ — just to give them information about their debt on a regular basis,” said Ginger Gossman, the senior director of innovation and policy development for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. 

Without question, all students who take out student loans should be educated on the amount of money and interest they are accumulating from each loan taken out. However, there are several issues with the law. For one, this bill aims to provide financial literacy for students on a frequent basis when, in fact, this information is already accessible to students. When I sought to learn more about the student loans I took out and the debt I aquired, I took time to sit down, research my loan servicer and get familiar with the financial terminology. With this effort, I quickly became well-informed on how much I had accepted in loans and the rate of interest I would accumulate over time.

Take it from me. The financial literature regarding debt is not at all hard to find. Considering this, students should not be burdened yearly by notifications from the University re-emphasizing how much they are collecting in student debt while they are still attending college. 

“It’s stressful of course — students have to focus, study, be prepared (for classes already), so if you (now) have in your mind ‘Oh I have to pay 54,000 in loans,’ it makes it complicated to be focusing (on school work),” said Rodolfo Sebastian, radio-television-film senior.

Gossmman said this bill’s implementation is “not to discourage students” from taking out loans, but it may be doing just the opposite.

Being constantly reminded that your debt is increasing on a year-to-year basis while at the same time having to deal with the societal and academic pressures that come with being a college student is cruel and can contribute to increased stress and mental health issues. Gossman acknowledges that this “certainly can be (overwhelming).”

“(You) are making decisions about loan debt (because) you want to complete your degree — at the same time you are making decisions about housing, transportation, what courses to take,” Gossman said. “You’re making a lot of critical decisions at the same time.”

I understand what UT and other statewide educational institutions are trying to accomplish with the implementation of this bill, but this is not the correct approach. Students can and should seek information on financial stability as early as possible — they don’t need the University to consistently remind them. 

Instead, UT should either communicate to students the importance of financial literacy upon their arrival to the University through a comprehensive presentation or pressure the Texas Legislature to make the receiving of these notifications optional for students. 

West Jr. is a journalism sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana.