The US Government Accountability Office (GAO), often called the “congressional watchdog,” is a government agency that assists Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and ensures the accountability of the federal government. Under a provision within the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Congress has requested the GAO conduct a study with respect to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking who are, or were, enrolled at institutions of higher education and borrowed a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 for which the survivors have not repaid the total interest and principal due.
The GAO asked to meet with ATIXA to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand. During the meeting, ATIXA was able to provide insight from Title IX coordinators on the ground as well as share the ATIXA-inspired bill – Student Loan Deferment for Victims of Sexual Violence (HR 7980) – led in the House of Representatives by our own Representative, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). As a reminder, the ATIXA-inspired bill would allow a borrower who is a victim of sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) to defer payment of federal student loans for up to three years. It would also authorize the Department of Education to waive certain requirements for repayment of grant assistance or federal student loans for a borrower whose attendance was interrupted due to such violence.