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Schumer Pushes For Student Loan Forgiveness In Case Of Death

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has renewed his push to get "Andrew's Law" passed.

Schumer was in Albany Monday promoting his legislation that would require private student loans to be discharged if the borrower dies, so that parents aren’t held liable for debt. He was joined at the Federal Building by Leonard and Linda Tanski of Colonie, whose daughter Lauren was murdered in New Orleans in January 2013. At the time Lauren was killed, she had $90,000 in student loan debt – $30,000 in federal loans and $60,000 in private student loans, some of which were scheduled to be paid back despite her death.

"Unfortunately, they began to endure repeated financial and emotional hardship as a result. They called me and I was able to step in and contact the private company, Sallie Mae, to get their loans forgiven. It wasn't easy for us to do. It required a long battle with the student loan receiver, and I was familiar with their situation, because I went through it in Syracuse in 2010."   That's when Schumer created “Andrew’s Law” to honor Andrew Prior, a central New Yorker who died, also leaving his family struggling to pay back student debt.  "You've lost your child and they call you every month and say 'Why haven't you paid, why haven't you paid,' when obviously the child is gone, there's no chance of the child ever repaying."

Schumer says that the Tanski family’s experience underscores the need for a strong federal law to prevent private companies from forcing grieving families to pay up.  Currently, submitting a death certificate is all that's needed for federal loans to be forgiven, and the Democrat wants the same policy in place for private student loan forgiveness.    "These two horrible cases have made it abundantly clear to me that we need federal legislation to ensure that private student loan debt is completely forgiven following the death of a child. So that families don't have to simultaneously endure the loss of a child and then the salt in the wound harassment from a loan company trying to collect a debt."

Schumer said the Tanski family, who declined to speak with the media, is only one example of the need to get the bill passed.  "So why are we here today? We're in a new session of Congress and I'm announcing a major push in this Congress to finally get this legislation passed into law. We have more support than we've had in the past. And we think the loan companies are relenting some of their cold-heartedness and are willing to not fight this."

A call for comment to Sallie Mae was not returned in time for broadcast.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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