Paying for higher education shouldn’t result in driving students into staggering debt, collection, and bankruptcy. Increasingly, students and their families finance higher education with private loans, which are not eligible for the important deferment, income-based repayment, or loan forgiveness options that come with federal student loans. These loans carry higher interest rates and fees, have higher default rates, default faster than federal loans, and are subject to collection lawsuits.

Black and Latino students are disproportionately impacted by student debt. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office found that 90% of Black and 72% of Latino undergraduates have student loans compared with 66% of white students.

Columbia Legal Services partnered with consumer and student advocates to change collection laws for private student loans. The Student Opportunity, Assistance, and Relief for Student Loans (SOAR) Act (SB 1169) helped rein in collection laws related to private student loans. It reduces the 12% interest rate after a collection judgment, the highest in the country, to two percentage points above the prime rate. It also helps limit the amount of money that can be garnished from a person’s wages or bank accounts due to collection actions related to private student loans.

The SOAR Act also repeals Washington laws that allowed for the suspension of professional licenses or certificates of student loan borrowers who have defaulted on their loans. These counterproductive policies made it even more difficult for a borrower to repay their financial obligations