Proposed Bill Offers Student Loan Deferment for Victims of Sexual Violence

Supporters say the bill would give students the chance to suspend their schooling to focus on their mental and physical health after an attack.
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  • Sexual violence is among the most common crimes reported on college campuses.
  • The waiver would apply to students who report the event to their Title IX coordinator.
  • The Association of Title IX Administrators supports the proposed bill.

Victims of sexual assault may soon be eligible for up to three years of student loan payment deferment to aid recovery.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania proposed the Student Loan Deferment for Sexual Violence Survivors Act this summer in an effort to give sexual violence victims more options when recovering from a traumatic event. The bill is aimed at those who choose to pause their enrollment to focus on their mental and physical health rehabilitation, Dean said in a statement.

"It is heartbreaking that a student who is a victim of sexual violence, who takes time off from college for their mental and physical health, may then be burdened with student loan payments," she said. "This legislation will help students who have experienced horrific trauma by offering them the opportunity to defer these payments so that they can focus on healing."

The Student Loan Deferment for Sexual Violence Survivors Act would only defer payments for federal student loans.

Most federal student loans come with a six-month grace period before a borrower must begin making payments after stopping out of school. This proposal would allow students up to three more years of deferment, given out in increments of 6-12 months at a time, according to the bill's text.

A student must file a report with their school's Title IX coordinator to qualify for the deferment. The bill does not state that the student must go through the formal complaint process to be eligible.

According to the proposal, the following acts would be included in the definition of "sexual violence":

  • Sexual assault
  • Dating violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Stalking

Newly released data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) from 2019 shows that forcible sexual offenses are now the most commonly reported crimes on college campuses, overtaking burglary in 2018. There were 6,200 reported rape cases in 2019, per the NCES report.

The Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) backs the proposed Student Loan Deferment for Sexual Violence Survivors Act. The association urged its 8,600 active members to write to legislators to support the bill.

"ATIXA's members reported that victims of sexual violence in college were taking time off from school to heal from their trauma, only to find out that their student loan repayment requirements would kick in while they were on leave," Brett Sokolow, president of ATIXA, said in a joint statement with Dean. "This legislation will be a life-altering change for the better for thousands of survivors of campus sexual violence."

The bill currently has three co-sponsors, all Democrats:

  • Jahana Hayes of Connecticut
  • Katie Porter of California
  • Deborah Ross of North Carolina