Legislature Passes Student Debt Relief Bill

SB 2361 establishes student loan consolidation program at Bank of North Dakota

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – A bill to help alleviate student loan debt in North Dakota is on its way to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s desk for his signature. SB 2361, introduced by Senator Mac Schneider, D – Grand Forks, will establish a student loan consolidation program at the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. The legislation passed the House today by a vote of 91 to 1, clearing the final hurdle in the legislative process.

“This is a measured, but meaningful, way to help young people who have increasingly been forced to take on debt as a way to finance their education,” Schneider said. “For many people in their 20s and 30s, their monthly student loan payment is like a second mortgage. This bill will allow our talented professionals at the Bank of North Dakota to begin offering student loan consolidation to our citizens, helping them take advantage of low interest rates and lowering their monthly payments at no cost to North Dakota taxpayers.”

The legislation was introduced as a response to startling statistics on the prevalence of student debt in North Dakota. According to the Project on Student Debt, North Dakota leads the nation in the percentage of students who graduate from college with debt: 83%. On average, those recent graduates will enter the workforce with $27,425 in debt (13th nationally). Though debt burdens students and graduates throughout the whole state, the University of North Dakota ranks in the top twenty public schools when it comes to total debt carried by graduates.

SB 2361 directs the Bank of North Dakota to take an incremental approach to establishing the student loan consolidation program. First, the bank will develop and administer a consolidation program for physicians practicing in rural areas. The bill also authorizes the bank to expand the student loan consolidation program to other individuals, including those with undergraduate loans.

Senator George Sinner, D-Fargo, co-sponsored the legislation and worked closely with the Bank of North Dakota on the bill as it proceeded through the Senate and House. He said the approach taken in SB 2361 strikes the right balance for the bank and for North Dakotans with debt.

“We believe this bill will result in real debt relief while also being workable for the Bank of North Dakota as it begins the process of offering this service to our citizens,” said Sinner, who works as a bank vice president in Fargo.

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