Will the $50,000 Loan Debt of a Deceased Student Cost KeyBank More?

Christopher Bryski.  Photo Courtesy of the Bryski Family.
Christopher Bryski. Photo Courtesy of the Bryski Family.

Back in 2012, the Wall Street Journal did a story on the loan debt left to Christopher Bryski’s family after he passed away from a brain tumor.  The Huffington Post followed up this week with an update to the Bryski family.  Apparently KeyBank has continued to bill Christopher’s father since his death in 2006.  According to the online petition, the family has worked to create a law to present to Congress to force companies to forgive student loan debt upon death.  If “Christopher’s Law” goes into effect, then the private loan industry will definitely be making changes in how they disburse loans and repayment schedules.

However, what can strike any crisis communications and marketing experts interest, is how Christopher’s debt (although $50,000 is a substantial figure) is costing KeyBank more in the long run.  Had they forgiven the balance, they wouldn’t have the attention of the public, nor the signatures of those who will now associate KeyBank in a negative light.  Key Bank not only has a loan department, but a slew of other services it offers to the public.

Can we put a price on this negative publicity?  Probably if there was a data collection of closed accounts or loss of potential clients.  It cannot yet be said what the financial impact will be on KeyBank, surely their internal personnel, lawyers and public communications team has already spent that amount on labor to force the family to continue making payments.  Crisis Communications and upholding a brand image always comes at a cost.

$50,000 suddenly seems like a small amount to forgive and a larger financial cost in the long run.

What do you think?  Will this hurt their image?


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