|RICHMOND, Va. – Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have unanimously passed Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg’s bill to end the practice of suspending certain professional licenses due to unpaid student loans.
The bill, which now heads to Governor Northam’s desk, forbids the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Department of Health Professions, the Board of Accountancy, and the Board of Education from suspending or revoking professional licenses due to default or delinquency on a federal or state student loan.
The New York Times recently published a story on states that suspend the professional licenses of people with unpaid loans. Entitled, “When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work,” the piece relayed the story of a nurse who defaulted on student loans when a series of seizures prevented her from working. Once the seizures were under control, she discovered her nursing license had been suspended, and she was not able to pay the $1,500 to get it reinstated. Stories like these have prompted at least three other states –Oklahoma, Montana and New Jersey — to make necessary code changes by passing legislation like Delegate VanValkenburg’s.
“In Virginia, professionals who borrowed money for school or technical training run the risk of losing their professional licenses if they run into trouble paying their student loans,” said Delegate VanValkenburg. “People can’t pay their loans if they’ve lost the ability to work. As a teacher, I see students limiting their career choices because of increasing levels of student loan debt. We need teachers, firefighters, and health care professionals. This bill will help protect these professionals and the families they support.”
“This bill is an important fix to a serious problem that kept many Virginians in a cycle of financial uncertainty,” said Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, a chief co-patron of the bill. “Borrowers already have enough incentives to pay back their loans; losing their means to make a living is bad policy. We are happy we are making this change in Virginia to provide relief for working families struggling with student debt.”
Delegate VanValkenburg was elected this past November. He teaches civics at Glen Allen High School and represents the 72nd District, which includes parts of Henrico County, in the House of Delegates.
The House of Delegates also passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price of Newport News that would create a student loan ombudsman to help Virginians navigate repayment options. That bill awaits action in the Senate.