State agency creates student loan ombudsman to help borrowers and monitor services
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – A new position has been created within the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to help people with student loans and ensure student loan servicers are in compliance. .
The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 485 in 2021 requiring all student loan servicers doing business in Oregon to obtain or renew a license. The bill also created the position of Student Loans Ombudsman within the Department’s Financial Regulation Division (FRD).
The division hired Lane Thompson to start the program. She is trained as a housing counselor and has seen how crippling student loan debt was for Oregonians trying to buy a home.
“People are really struggling to buy a home because they’re buried in student loan debt,” Thompson said. “So I really got to know the student loan side while working as a housing counsellor.”
SB 485 gives the state the power to keep student loan officers in compliance. Thompson said there’s been a wave of class action lawsuits against federal and private student loans officers, and as a result, many states have created positions similar to this one.
“The main problem was that federal loan managers were supposed to do certain things and they weren’t,” she said. “All federal loans are eligible for income-based repayment plans, which means your payment is based on your income.”
But some federal agents were pushing people for forbearance, which wiped out their payments while accumulating interest.
Federal student loan servicers are private companies that have federal contracts. If they handle loans for people who live in Oregon, SB 485 requires them to be licensed in Oregon. This allows the DFR to regulate student loan servicers in the same way the division regulates other financial services.
Thompson’s role as student loans ombudsman is truly a bond, she said.
“I try to bring a solution to any conflict between the borrower and the repairer,” she said.
The Ombudsman is not a licensed student loan counselor, but someone who accepts complaints and helps ensure that services are in compliance.
Anyone needing help with student loans is encouraged to go to studentaid.gov first, Thompson said. People who still need help can email [email protected] or call 888-877-4894 (toll-free).
About the Oregon DFR: The Financial Regulation Division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and dfr.oregon.gov.