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Deadbeat College Students

February 13, 1996
By: Cristina Gomez
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Deadbeat college students would be denied licenses to practice their professions under a proposal before Missouri's legislature.

The proposal, now before the House Higher Education Committee, seeks to lower the number of students defaults on college loans administered by the state.

During the last school year, there was a 12 per cent default rate on $271.8 million in loans administered by the Higher Education Department.

The Higher Education Department runs the Missouri Student Loan Program which has issued more than 400,000 loans since 1978. Of those, more than 60,000 borrowers have been in default at one time or another on a total amount of $214 million in loans.

The ones who do not pay "are denying other people the chance of education," said Rep. Craig Hosmer, D-Springfield.

Hosmer is sponsoring a bill that would deny a professional license to any person in default on a student loan administered by the Higher Education Department.

Professions that require a state license include medicine, law, dentistry, accounting, architecture and even hair dressers and barbers.

While the measure would impose tougher penalties on student defaulters, the main student organization for the University of Missouri - the Associated Students of the University of Missouri - endorses the bill.

"We (the students) should be more responsible," said Deron Sugg from the Associated Students. "Refusing to pay in the long run can hurt somebody."

It wouldn't affect the people who have made satisfactory arrangements to ensure the repayment of the loan.

"There should be some flexibility with financial problems," Hosmer said. "The bill is to put a hammer on those who have the financial ability to pay."

Until now the only way to ensure those payments was sue the borrowers. Hosmer said legal action is costly, time consuming and unpredictable.

The bill would only affect people who require a license to practice their professions in Missouri. It would not cover Missouri students who apply for licenses in other states.

"There is a need of federal legislation," said Hosmer.

The Springfield Democrat suggested multi-state system similar to that used for traffic violations in which a ticket issued in another state can lead to points assessed against a Missouri driver's license. "The same thing should happen in loans."