In the fall of 2017, the New York Times documented the existence of laws in nineteen jurisdictions which allow for the revocation of government-issued professional licenses if a holder defaults on a student loan. Pleas for reform soon swamped states.
In Texas, whose next regular legislative session will begin on January 8, 2019, promises were issued from some of its most conservative legislators. “Next session the Legislature needs to address this issue head on and ensure that Texans who can’t pay student loans aren’t further crippled by government actions,” the conservative House Freedom Caucus, chaired by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tex.) from Tyler, said in a statement released on April 4.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, two modest reforms were passed (and one signed) in April. Approved by the Tennessee Senate and House on March 19 and April 2, respectively, and signed by the Governor on April 18, the first creates a medical hardship exemption for certain licensed professionals who are late or default on their student loan payments. The second, passed by both houses as of April 24, reduces the fee (from $350 to $180) to expunge the public record of defendants who had charges dismissed due to completing a pretrial diversion program.
Not surprisingly, considering its passage of a Student Loan Bill of Rights in November 2017 (over the governor’s veto), another state—Illinois—appears to have made the most concrete progress in recent days. In particular, a specific proposal, embodied in Senate Bill 2439, filed on January 30 by Sen. Scott M. Bennett (D-Ill.) of Champaign, gained traction in the spring of 2018. Sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, this bill would eliminate language from the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois requiring the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation to deny licenses or renewals to “any person who has defaulted on an educational loan” unless that person is performing satisfactorily under a repayment plan. Via further textual extirpation, it would abrogate IDPR’s power to suspend or revoke a license for failure to make satisfactory repayments on delinquent or defaulted loans. If enacted, it would stop regulatory directives and referrals between the IDPR, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (“ISAC”), and other licensing agencies and boards with respect to student loan delinquencies and defaults.