March 02, 2021
March 02, 2021
Good afternoon Chair Hillyer, Vice Chair Grendel, Ranking Member Galonski and members of the House Civil Justice Committee. My name is Piet van Lier, and I am the education researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with the mission to create a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio. Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony in favor of House Bill 32, which would halt the collection of debt owed to the state’s public institutions of higher education.
During a crisis unlike any we have seen in living memory, this bill would protect Ohioans who owe money to our state’s public colleges and universities, as well as hospitals operated by public universities. In a study by Policy Matters released just as the pandemic was starting, we focused on student debt, outlining the negative impact of an Ohio law that requires public colleges and universities to turn over debt to the state Attorney General’s office within 45 days after the debt is incurred or within 10 days of the start of the next school term.
Here are our top-level findings:
A recent national scan shows that Ohio is one of only five states that require student institutional debt to be turned over to the AG. Even among those five, Ohio’s punitive approach to student debt collection is an outlier, with more rigid timelines and no threshold amounts below which debt is not turned over to the AG. Our 2020 report revealed that each of the 390,000 active accounts with the AG is likely tied to a withheld transcript.
In normal times, our state’s punitive approach to the collection of student debt already presents for many Ohioans an insurmountable barrier. It also holds the state back from achieving its goal of building its workforce and intellectual capital by ensuring all Ohioans aged 25 to 64 complete a degree, certificate or other postsecondary workforce credential of value in the workplace by 2025.
During this pandemic-induced financial crisis, collecting on student debt can be even more disruptive, with so many Ohioans struggling to make ends meet. House Bill 32 offers a common-sense solution to help our fellow Ohioans and boost our economy. Our current punitive practices extract from Ohioans the money they need to put food on the table and prevent our neighbors from furthering their education at a time when retraining for a new job can open new opportunities in a forever-changed economy.
Thank you for your consideration of House Bill 32. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our findings. You may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-832-2102.
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