Yesterday, I testified at the Massachusetts State House in support of the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” which would introduce new statewide protections for student loan borrowers in Massachusetts. Below is my testimony.
If you live in Massachusetts, contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the Student Loan Bill of Rights.
Dear Honorable Chairs of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure:
I am writing to you today in support of S129, the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” sponsored by Senator Eric Lesser.
By way of background, I am a solo-practicing attorney with a uniquely-focused practice devoted entirely to helping student loan borrowers. To my knowledge, I am the only such attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – and one of the only in the country – specializing in this area of law. I have a unique perspective on the student loan crisis, particularly as it impacts student loan borrowers here in our Commonwealth.
I started my law practice over six years ago after I encountered a problem with my own student loans, but could find nobody to help me. I had just graduated from law school and was ready to begin repaying my student loans, but one of my student loan servicers inexplicably blocked me from accessing my account, prevented me from making monthly payments, and began reporting derogatory marks to the national credit bureaus. I desperately sought advice and assistance, but I couldn’t find anyone to help me. After several months – and many hours on the phone – I was ultimately able to determine what happened, and I was able to resolve the issue. But that experience illustrated for me how problematic student loan servicing is. Here I was, a newly-minted attorney with an ability to repay my student debt, but I was prevented from doing so by my servicer – and there was no one to turn to for help. I founded my student loan law practice shortly thereafter, with a mission to help other student loan borrowers who found themselves in similar situations and needed somebody to help them.
Since then, I have helped thousands of student loan borrowers throughout Massachusetts deal with student loan servicing problems. Some of the most common issues I see include the following:
- Misinformation provided by customer service agents
- Misrepresentation of a student loan borrower’s legal rights or repayment options
- Misapplication of payments
- Processing errors or delays that cause student loan borrowers to pay higher payments or lose access to profession-based loan forgiveness programs
- Erroneous credit reporting
I have met with student loan borrowers who were thrown into months-long periods of nonpayment status because of paperwork processing delays attributable entirely to the servicer. I have first-hand experience with servicer customer service agents providing me or my clients with information that as a student loan attorney I know to be misleading or blatantly false. I have seen tens of thousands of dollars of outstanding interest capitalize on a borrower account due to servicing errors, leading to needless financial penalties. I have seen my clients’ outstanding student loan payments – and sometimes even their balances – literally double overnight because of servicing irregularities.
I shouldn’t have a job doing this work – but I do, because the student loan servicing system is a mess, and borrowers are being harmed every day. As the U.S. Dept. of Education under President Trump and Secretary DeVos takes repeated steps indicating that it will not protect student loan borrowers from servicer conduct, it’s going to be up to the individual states to step in and protect their residents. Connecticut and Illinois have passed similar bills, and New York has taken major steps as well.
That is why I support S129. The bill prohibits some of the most common and egregious servicer conduct, and provides borrowers who are harmed by these companies with recourse via the Massachusetts consumer protection statute. The bill also creates a statewide Ombudsman position to help resolve some of these servicing complaints; provide education and training to student borrowers, educational institutions, and the general public to mitigate some of these harms; and collect critical data on servicing problems. In conjunction with the work already being done by the Attorney General’s Office, I think this bill is an important step to protect borrowers in our Commonwealth who are only trying to do the right thing and repay their student loans.
I hope you will join me in supporting the Student Loan Bill of Rights.