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Legislature Unanimously Passes Bill to Improve State Student Loans

SB 195 sets favorable terms for Alaska’s students and expands loan opportunities

JUNEAU – The Alaska State Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 195, which improves student loans in Alaska by substantially changing state laws regarding the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education and the Alaska Student Loan Corporation. 

Senator Anna Fairclough (R-East Anchorage/Eagle River), the sponsor of the legislation, proposed the changes in order to set favorable terms for borrowers, increase the amount a student may borrow, and define “on-time” status for a student to complete coursework.

“Across our nation, students continue to take on more debt and it is quite burdensome to families,” said Senator Fairclough. “SB 195 is our effort to work with the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education and the Alaska Student Loan Corporation to enact broadly supported student loan reform for Alaskans.”

By defining “on-time” status as 15 credits per semester, SB 195 encourages students to complete their postsecondary education in a timely manner. This, in turn, keeps student debt lower, more manageable, and allows entry into the workforce sooner. SB 195 also makes the first changes to state education loan maximums in nearly 20 years.

“As we all know, tuition at most postsecondary institutions continues to rise, sometimes substantially.  Until now, student loan programs have not kept up with those increases,” said Senator Fairclough. “Increasing loan limits will allow students easier access to enough financial aid from one loan servicer, thereby making it easier to borrow what they need while at the same time easing the repayment process.”

SB 195 also broadens the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education’s membership, allows for the assessment of educational outcomes, enables the Alaska Student Loan Corporation to offer below-market loan terms, clarifies the Corporation’s ability to consolidate loans for state residents, defines half-time status for undergraduate students, adds a definition for graduate students, and amends the school year to better align with the state fiscal year as well as the standard education lending year.

“As the mother of a student who had to obtain student loans, this bill is a significant and positive change for students and families,” said Senator Fairclough. “Senate Bill 195 will allow the commission to better assist Alaskans accessing higher education, create incentives for students to enroll in sufficient credits to expedite completion of their degree, as well as begin their career as part of Alaska’s workforce.”

Senate Bill 195 now heads to Governor Parnell for his signature.

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