For some companies, not even death can save you from student debt repayment.
Christopher Bryski died in a recreational accident while attending Rutgers University in New Jersey and left behind $50,000 in student loan debt, for which his father had co-signed, according to Inside Higher Ed.
KeyBank, the financial institution from which Bryski received the private student loans, was not required to clear the student’s debts because his father had co-signed, and for six years, it wouldn’t.
The Cleveland-based bank recently changed its policy and will now take a case-by-case approach when dealing with a student debtor’s death.
"Some banks take the position that you took out the loan, you co-signed for it, you’ve got to pay it back," KeyBank spokeswoman Lynne Woodman told Inside Higher Ed. "Some banks take the position that we will always forgive the loan if a student dies and there's a co-signer. Others do it case by case."
Bryski’s father was forced out of retirement to repay the debt. The family campaigned for KeyBank to forgive the loans and petitioned Congress to pass legislation that would require companies to be transparent on whether they clear debts in the event of death or incapacitation.
“The general practice is that the bank would relieve the co-signer,” Harrison Wadsworth, special counsel to the Consumer Bankers Association’s Education Funding Committee, told Inside Higher Ed. “I think it’s just that the banks want to do the right things in these cases and that’s why these policies are in place.”