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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Attorney General Maura Healey Says Student Debt is Major Legal Challenge


Maura Healey visited the John F Kennedy Presidential Library on Sept. 23 to talk about her first year as Attorney General.

The attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Nov. 23 and talked about her first year in office. She listed student debt as one of the main legal challenges the Commonwealth faces.

In the 2014 elections, Maura Healey won her party’s nomination over former State Senator Warren Tolman, and later beat out Republican John Miller. She is the first openly gay state attorney general in the history of the nation.

The North Shore native previously worked under Attorney General Martha Coakley as the chief of various state legal appendages, such as the Civil Rights Division, and the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau.

She inherited from her predecessor the federal case, “Massachusetts vs. U.S. Department of Health and Services,” which challenged the Defense of Marriage Act and argued that states should have the power to decide the legality of same-sex marriage.

The total amount of student debt in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, because college tuition continues to increase and the federal government keeps giving out more loans.

Many economists fear that if enough debtors are unable to pay their loans, colleges will start to go out of business in a manner reminiscent of the late-2000s mortgage crisis.

Healey predicts the “bubble” will soon burst, making it the nation’s worst economic crisis.

At the JFK Forum, she discussed what the attorney general’s office can do to curtail the issue.

“We have $1.4 trillion in student debt. These are people who are starting their career––we are talking about future employees. How are these kids going to buy a house, raise a family, and do the things necessary to grow and maintain a vital economy?”

As a consumer advocate, the attorney general’s office makes strides to prevent the victimization of Massachusetts consumers. Healey says she has gone after “predatory, for-profit-schools” that use aggressive marketing tactics and have large fees, but award degrees with proportionately less value.

Healey says she is looking at problems with loan servicing companies like Nelnet.

“These services are not doing what they should be doing when students need to be refinanced or moved to a different model.” She did not elaborate on the specific shortcomings.

Healey’s office is also going after debt collectors. She says that although these companies offer to consolidate debt, students are left “further behind, and deeper in the hole,” because of the fees they tack on for their services.

The attorney general’s office is collaborating with the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren to push back against these companies.Healey says that her office has a hotline for students who are having trouble with their student loans (1-888-830-6277).

“We will work with you and the [loan] servicer to get you something more affordable that works for you.”

“I think the U.S. department of Education has the opportunity to step up and make sure more responsible loans are being made; that students are being helped in the process.”

Healey listed other major legal challenges, such as the opiate crisis, gun violence, income inequality, and economic security.

Dean of Harvard Law School Martha Minow moderated the event.

The event marked the last forum introduction that Tom Putnam would give as director of the JFK Library. Putnam, who has held a number of positions since joining in 1999, becoming director in 2007. At the time of this article’s writing, “Director” was not listed under the staff vacancies section of the JFK Library website.

In his poignant event introduction, Putnam quoted the late attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, saying, “We know that it is law which enables us to live together, that create order out of chaos, and if the rights of one are denied, the rights of all are endangered.”