Sen. Lesser Recommits to Passing Student Loan Bill of Rights, Unveils Expanding Coalition Backing Effort

Student Borrower Protection Center Also Reveals New Data Revealing the Widespread Impact of Student Loan Debt in Massachusetts  

BOSTON — Senator Eric Lesser and Seth Frotman, Executive Director of the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released new analysis demonstrating the scale of the student debt crisis in Massachusetts on Wednesday alongside a growing coalition backing Sen. Lesser’s Student Loan Bill of Rights.

The new analysis of government data shows that 855,500 Massachusetts consumers owe $33.3 billion in student loan debt. This analysis exposes rising levels of unsustainable debt shouldered by borrowers of all ages, in communities across the state.

Student Loan Debt increased in Massachusetts by $1 billion in 2018.

The analysis, based on data made available by the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Philadelphia, shows the student debt crisis growing for borrowers across the state, including:

  • Student debt in Massachusetts more than doubled from 2007 to 2017, including a $1 billion increase in 2018 alone;

  • Nearly 100,000 Massachusetts borrowers are delinquent on a student loan;

  • One in five Massachusetts student loan borrowers lives in a rural community; and

  • Since 2012, more than 1,500 student loan borrowers have submitted complaints about student loan companies.

“These new numbers paint a stark and scary picture of the problem that is staring us in the face. This debt is poisoning our entire economy: People are not buying homes or cars. They are saving less for retirement, which will have ripple effects decades from now. Student borrowers need a dedicated cop on the beat to defend their interests against predatory student loan servicers that are not always following fair practices in collecting this debt,” said Sen. Lesser.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Higgins reintroduced the Student Loan Bill of Rights earlier this year to establish state-level consumer protections for student loan borrowers in Massachusetts.

“As student loan borrowers in Massachusetts suffer each day from the burden of their debt, state leaders must take action,” said Seth Frotman, Executive Director for the Student Borrower Protection Center. “The federal government has walked away from this crisis, casting hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers aside in the process. The borrowers across Massachusetts cannot wait any longer for predatory student loan companies to be held accountable.”

Sen. Lesser and Frotman used their first joint appearance to announce a new coalition backing the Student Loan Bill of Rights, including Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), the Hildreth Institute and MassPIRG.

The event also included a speech by Nathan Foster, a Tufts University alum and Hildreth Institute advocate, who spoke about the impact of student loans on recent graduates. Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director at MassPIRG also spoke.

The Student Loan Bill of Rights, co-sponsored by Rep. Adrian Madaro, empowers state officials to investigate predatory loan servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protections laws — including forcing student loan servicers to repay students whom they have overcharged.

“Our young people have done everything they have been told to do — they went out to get an education, and they agreed to pay a large amount of money to do so because they believed it was an investment in themselves. But the student loan servicers who manage these loans have been downright predatory. Our young people deserve the basic consumer protections that exist in any other industry,” said Sen. Lesser.

Sen. Lesser and Frotman were also joined at the event by a number of legislators supporting the bill, including Sens. Anne Gobi, Adam Hinds, Julian Cyr, Cindy Friedman and Rebecca Rausch and Reps. Carlos Gonzalez, Mindy Domb, Lindsay Sabadosa, Andy Vargas, Maria Robinson, Tami Gouveia and Paul Donato, the second assistant majority leader.

SPBC was launched late last year with the goal of alleviating student debt through advocacy, policymaking and litigation by partnering with local, state and national leaders. Lesser is a member of SBPC’s Advisory Board.

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Ryan Migeed