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Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 04/26/2012

Bank forgives loan of dead student after six years and online petition

A bank that had refused to forgive the loan of a student who died six years ago has finally decided to do so after an online petition by the student’s brother collected more than 75,000 signatures.

A news release from Change.org, the Web site where the petition was posted several days ago, says that Cleveland-based KeyBank has informed the family of the late Christopher Bryski that it will forgive his loan and review policies about how to proceed in such cases.

Bryski, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, suffered a severe brain injury in an accident June 17, 2004, and remained in a persistent vegetative state for two years before dying in 2006, according to the petition.

His father had co-signed his loan, and KeyBank insisted that it be paid off even though, as Ryan Bryski noted in his Change.org petition, other major student loan providers, including Wells Fargo and Sallie Mae, have policies that forgive student loans of people who die. Federally guaranteed loans are discharged when proof of death is provided.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal had reported that the federal government’s $5,000 loan to Bryski had been canceled. About $51,000 was outstanding to KeyBank at the time of Christopher’s death, according to Megan Lubin, communications manager of Change.org, and the family has been been making monthly payments of several hundred dollars for the last six years.

The federal government canceled its $5,000 loan to Bryski in accordance with federal policy, the Wall Street Journal reported. But Bryski’s private lender, KeyBank, happens to be one of many private institutions without a clear policy on canceling the student loan debt of a deceased individual.

Just days ago, Ryan Bryski posted a petition on Change.org asking the bank to discharge the loan. After more than 75,000 signatures were quickly collected, the bank got in touch with the family and issued a statement saying it would adopt a “case-by-case” policy for similar situations, according to the release.

“My family tried for years to get KeyBank to forgive my brother Christopher’s loans after he died, and for years they ignored us,” Ryan Bryski was quoted as saying. “Thankfully, they couldn’t ignore the 75,000 people who signed our petition on Change.org.”

After Christopher Bryski died, his family began working with U.S. lawmakers in an effort to pass legislation known as “Christopher’s Law,” which would ensure that lenders tell student borrowers and their families what will happen to their debt load if they die or become disabled.

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By  |  03:06 PM ET, 04/26/2012

 
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