Family's tragedy may lead to new law on student loans
By Thomas Fitzgerald
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Most people who write their congressman get back a polite form letter.
But when the Bryski family of
Because his father,
"The process was horrible," said mother
Direct student loans from the federal government are forgiven if the borrower dies or becomes incapacitated, but so-called private loans from banks that millions of students carry usually are not. And because Christopher had not signed a power-of-attorney document, his parents and brothers had no legal standing to negotiate payment terms, nor could they access his bank accounts to help pay off his student debt, rent and credit card bills.
Two to three times a week, banks and credit card companies would call the family demanding payments.
"Some were understanding but said they couldn't do anything: 'We need to talk to Christopher,' " brother
The family declined to identify the lending institutions.
Eventually, the Bryskis had to petition to obtain legal guardianship of Christopher, a painful proceeding that involved a court-appointed attorney quizzing the young man in his hospital bed to confirm he was incapacitated.
The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act (H.R. 5458) would provide some forewarning for families, requiring banks providing student loans to inform borrowers and co-signers of their obligations in case of incapacity or death, to define those terms in a standard way, and to discuss the option of credit insurance, which pays off debts in the event of death.
Bankers and educational institutions would also have to counsel families taking out loans about the benefits of a durable power of attorney, which designates someone to make financial, legal, and medical decisions for you if you become incapable of doing so.
The Bryskis are hardworking people, and they say they do not want to shirk their legal obligation to pay Christopher's debt — on which they continue to make payments.
"We want other families not to have to go through what we did,"
During 2007-08, 13 percent of students attending a four-year public college or university and 26.2 percent of those attending a private four-year institution had private student loans, according to government figures.
"The Bryskis exposed a gap in the system," said Adler, a member of the
Not only would families be able to prepare themselves, but also greater awareness of the problem may put market pressure on private lenders to bring their loans into line with the forgiveness policy of the federal direct student loans. "Information is power," Adler said.
"I don't see any additional cost to the lender for providing this heads-up information; it's going to add another minute to the script as they go through the loan papers," said
Adler's office has not yet heard from financial-institution lobbyists. Officials with the
The bill was introduced in May and has drawn four co-sponsors so far. It has not yet been set for a hearing.
In the spring of 2004,
He had been a standout athlete in high school and had a "purposeful side," his mother said, mentoring younger students on self-esteem and staying away from drugs.
Christopher was climbing a tree in a friend's yard when, on his way down, a limb snapped and he fell headfirst 45 feet to the ground.
"It's not something you want to think about, but you must be prepared,"
In the family living room stands a monument to Christopher — his ashes resting in a box in a glass-enclosed case, with mementos, including military friends' dog tags, pictures, a rosary and crosses woven from palm fronds.
Now the family hopes there also will be a federal law that honors their son and brother.
"In trying to help other people, you're living (Christopher's) values," Adler told the Bryskis. "It's amazing."
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