A Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights

This legislative session, MA State Rep. Natalie Higgins and Senator Eric Lesser have introduced a bill that would protect student loan borrowers from predatory lenders! Senator Lesser explains how that would work in this op-ed.

JwJ member organization, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, has been leading the charge to end the student debt crisis. Here's what PHENOM organizer Sydney Little had to say about the bill at the first hearing for the legislation last week:

Testimony of Sydney Little, Organizing Director of PHENOM,
to the Joint Committee on Financial Services
in Support of the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights (H.2173)

My name is Sydney Little and I am the Organizing Director for PHENOM, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. We’re a grassroots coalition of students, alumni, families, faculty, staff and community supporters who educate the public about our public higher education system and advocate for a high-quality, debt-free future for every student at our 29 public community colleges, state universities, and UMass campuses.

As a recent college graduate and an advocate for student’s rights, I urge you today to adopt the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights contained with bill H2173.

As the cost of a college education in Massachusetts skyrockets, students and their families can no longer pay for a diploma out of pocket. With the cost of college at an unprecedented high, up 1000% since baby boomers pursued higher education, students have nowhere to turn but to loan servicers. As I am sure you are aware, students in Massachusetts have, or will accumulate, an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. For first time loan borrowers, or anyone for that matter, that’s a lot of money. Yet, these students receive few protections, and even fewer now with billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in office.

Realizing students are often young, first-time borrowers, loan servicers take advantage of them by charging high late fees, harassing students, and offering little help in navigating the convoluted terms of a loan agreement. Unfortunately, loan servicers are free to continue their predatory behavior, as they enjoy protections that students and families do not have.

A Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights would alleviate some of these problems. House Bill 2173 would put systems in place that advocate on behalf of students by ensuring students clearly understand the terms of their loans. The Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights would create oversight to ensure that our students- our future workforce- are not being exploited for private profit. Additionally, this bill proposes we set higher standards for the loan servicers that are preying on our Massachusetts students.

We know that House Bill 2173 will not fix the student debt crisis. Ultimately, the root of the issue lies in the climbing costs of higher education and plummeting state funding is a leading drive of this cost crisis. However, so long as we keep the costs of higher education out of reach for the people of Massachusetts, students will need to take out loans. The very least we can do is offer them a bit of protection.

Think student loan borrowers deserve a fair deal? Call your reps and senators today to tell them to support this bill!