“Imagine you’re a family who always pays their bills, has good credit and then you lose a child and in the midst of your grief, you’re saddled with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in their remaining student loan debt”

Earlier this year, there were a few stories that came out about how the state of New Jersey handles student loans. The New York Times ran a piece exposing New Jersey’s loan shark tactics to collect on student debt. Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti, a mother grieving the loss of her son, was being harassed by collectors because she co-signed for her deceased son’s student loans. New Jersey had a no loan forgiveness on dead students policy. The federal government told DeOliveira-Longinetti the loans were forgiven. Federal law dictates deceased students will receive loan forgiveness. The state of New Jersey has no such law and was still trying to collect.

In August, the chief administrator of New Jersey’s student loan program was set to appear before two state Senate committees. The chief administration was to answer for the unfair treatment of borrowers and their families. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law December 5th to eliminate student debt in the event of death or total disability. The bill would also allow for deferment of payments and interest of accumulation for lenders who are temporarily disabled.

This came about after ProPublica launched an investigation detailing DeOliveira-Longinetti’s case where she was forced to pay off her student loan debt after her son’s murder. State Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, the primary sponsor, laid out the scale of the savings to bereaved parents in a statement.

“Imagine you’re a family who always pays their bills, has good credit and then you lose a child and in the midst of your grief, you’re saddled with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in their remaining student loan debt,” Mazzeo wrote.  “That’s just something we can’t allow to happen on our watch.”