Stevens, Price, and Byrne Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Provide Borrowers Relief from Joint Consolidation Loans

May 15, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Last night, Congresswoman Stevens (D-MI), Congressman David E. Price (D-NC), and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) introduced the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act alongside Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

From January 1, 1993 until June 30, 2006, the U.S. Department of Education issued joint consolidation loans to married couples.  Both borrowers agreed at the time to be jointly liable for repayment, which proved problematic in the event of divorce.  Congress eliminated the program effective July 1, 2006 but did not provide a means of severing existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, economic abuse, or an unresponsive partner.  As a result, there are borrowers nationwide who remain liable for this consolidated debt without legal options for relief.

The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act would allow both borrowers to submit a joint application to the Department of Education to split their joint consolidated loan into two separate federal direct loans.  It would also allow one borrower to submit a separate application if they are experiencing domestic or economic abuse or are unable to reasonably reach the other borrower.  The remainder of the joint consolidated loan will be split proportionally and borrowers will be able to transfer eligible past payments towards income-based repayment programs or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

“Too many Americans are struggling to repay thousands of dollars of student loan debt,” said Congresswoman Haley Stevens. “The burden of student debt is even more painful for borrowers who are stuck trying to repay a joint consolidation loan with a spouse, or ex-spouse, who is abusive or unreachable. The bipartisan, bicameral Joint Consolidated Loan Separation Act takes bold action for borrowers that are faced with domestic abuse or an unresponsive partner by allowing them to sever their joint loans. It is high time to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are no longer financially on the hook for their abusive partners.”

“This bill is a direct response to my constituent’s experience with a damaging joint consolidation loan. I introduced this bill to provide relief to borrowers who are victims of abusive or uncommunicative spouses by allowing them to sever these loans,” said Congressman Price. “I’m grateful for the bipartisan support that this common-sense bill has received, and hope that we can pass this bill in the 116th Congress. While the total number of borrowers affected by this problem is small, the impact on those individuals is often crippling. Congressional action to fix this problem is long overdue.”

“I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan fix to offer relief to those saddled with an undeserved burden during an already difficult time,” said Congressman Byrne. “Our constituents sent us to Washington to solve problems, and this commonsense solution to an unintended consequence is something members of both parties can get behind.”

“When survivors escape abuse, they should be able to start over without the debts of their abusers. We applaud this bill for creating a solution for those survivors who consolidated loans either in good faith or under duress and are now rebuilding their lives,” said Monica McLaughlin, Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“For far too long, many student loan borrowers have been stuck in joint consolidation loans, and this bill ensures that struggling borrowers,  including survivors of domestic and economic abuse,  who previously consolidated their student loan debts, have the opportunity to regain their financial footing," said National Consumer Law Center attorney Joanna Darcus. "We applaud Senator Warner and Representative Price for their efforts. This bill would benefit many vulnerable student loan borrowers, and we are proud to support it.”

A one-page summary of the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act can be found here, and the bill text can be found here.