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California Advocates Renew Call to Pass AB 376 to Protect Teachers, Nurses and other California Student Loan Borrowers

Mounting Lawsuits Against Industry for Cheating Public Service Workers Underscores Need for Increased Borrower Protections, Ban on Industry Abuses

SACRAMENTO, CA– Today, New York Attorney General Tish James sued student loan giant Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, also known as PHEAA or FedLoan Servicing, for cheating teachers, nurses and other public service workers out of their right to loan forgiveness. In the face of mounting lawsuits and growing evidence of widespread predatory practices across the student loan industry, the organizations co-sponsoring AB 376, the California Student Borrower Bill of Rights, have renewed their call to the legislature to pass this critical borrower protection legislation.

More than half a dozen state attorneys general are suing large student loan companies for cheating borrowers, including two lawsuits related to mistreatment of public service workers.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been a national leader in this effort, prosecuting student loan servicer Navient Corporation for misleading and exploiting California borrowers.

Protecting California’s Public Service Workers

AB 376, the California Student Borrower Bill of Rights, will create new rights for all California borrowers, and establish special protections for military families, nurses, teachers, and other public service workers. The legislation would require student loan companies to train their staff to understand these rights and creates strong new protections to prevent companies from deceiving teachers and public service workers and misleading military borrowers. This bill also creates new penalties for companies that trick borrowers out of their repayment rights and, for the first time, gives individual borrowers new legal tools to seek justice for these abuses in the courts.

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California is positioned to pave the way in the fight to protect borrowers:

Seth Frotman, Student Borrower Protection Center Executive Director and former CFPB student loan ombudsman:

“The mounting lawsuits against the largest student loan companies show the heavy price paid by teachers and other public service workers because of rampant industry abuses. AB 376, the California Student Borrower Bill of Rights, would create important new protections for California teachers, nurses and other public service workers. It would also impose new penalties  on companies engaged in predatory practices like those at the heart of today’s action by New York. It is past time for California to act.”

Natalia Abrams, Executive Director, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis:

“We applaud New York Attorney General Tish James for suing abusive student loan servicer PHEAA and honoring the promise made to public servants over a decade ago. PHEAA has stacked the federal government with lobbyists and insiders allowing the company to deny thousands of student loan forgiveness applications with little oversight. State and local actions are necessary.

William, a veteran, former member of the Peace Corps, and health services professional from Concord, California, told us that loan servicing errors prevented him from having $62,000 in student debt forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. William says that after three decades of public service, the harm caused by his student loan servicer means he will struggle to make payments and support his three children. 

That is why Student Debt Crisis is a cosponsor of AB 376, the California Student Borrower Bill of Rights, and why we support efforts to strengthen consumer protections in states nationwide.”

Kristin McGuire, Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles:

“At this moment, 3.8 million Californians are buried under $141 million in student loan debt that will follow them for years to come. For too long, predatory lenders like PHEAA have taken advantage of California’s students through deceptive practices and confusing repayment plans. Now more than ever, our leaders in Sacramento must stand up to defend students and hold these lenders accountable. On behalf of borrowers across the Golden State, we urge state legislators to accept this responsibility to our state’s young people and pass the California Student Borrower Bill of Rights immediately.”

Suzanne Martindale, Senior Policy Counsel & Western States Legislative Manager, Consumer Reports:

“At a time when Washington is actively undermining efforts to tackle the education debt crisis in America, states must step up to protect their residents from abusive loan servicing practices like these.  We applaud New York’s efforts – and we urge California to take the next step by passing AB 376, the first bill in the nation to create enforceable industry standards that empower student borrowers.”

Arnold Sowell Jr., Executive Director, NextGen California:

“The student debt crisis is a clear and present danger to millions of Americans across our nation struggling to make their loan payments or who have been the victims of predatory practices. Student loan companies must be held accountable for the harm their fraudulent actions are causing everyday Americans – student loan borrowers trying to build a more prosperous future for themselves. We support New York Attorney General James’ efforts to protect consumers. Here in California, we are fighting for a Student Borrowers Bill of Rights which would guarantee critical consumer protections to all student loan borrowers. The news out of New York today further reinforces just how necessary it is to pass this extremely important legislative measure and NextGen California will continue the fight to do so.”

The California Student Borrower Bill of Rights

The Student Borrower Bill of Rights was authored by Assembly Member Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), and is co-sponsored by the Student Borrower Protection Center (protectborrowers.org), Consumer Reports Advocacy (advocacy.consumerreports.org), NextGen California (ca.nextgenamerica.org), Student Debt Crisis (studentdebtcrisis.org), and Young Invincibles (younginvincibles.org).

Earlier this year, the legislation’s co-sponsors joined with dozens of other organizations representing students, workers, consumers, older Americans, communities of color, and veterans to launch the Campaign for California Borrowers Rights (www.californiaborrowers.org) to advocate in support of this legislation and to fight to end the student debt crisis in California.

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The Student Borrower Protection Center is a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating the burden of student debt for millions of Americans. SBPC engages in advocacy, policymaking, and litigation strategy to rein in industry abuses, protect borrowers’ rights, and advance economic opportunity for the next generation of students. Led by the team of former federal regulators that directed oversight of the student loan market at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, SBPC exposes harmful and illegal practices in the student loan industry, drives impact litigation, advocates on behalf of student loan borrowers in Washington and in state capitals, and promotes progressive policy change. SBPC accomplishes these goals by partnering with leaders at all levels of government and throughout the nonprofit sector.

Young Invincibles (YI) is a national nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy and research organization working with and for young adults to address the generation’s most pressing economic challenges by amplifying the voices of young adults in the political process. With a focus on higher education, health care, workforce development, and civic engagement, our work is guided by the belief that every young person – regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other factor – deserves a fair chance to achieve their goals and reach financial stability.

Student Debt Crisis is a non-profit (501c4) organization dedicated to fundamentally reforming student debt and higher education loan policies. Student Debt Crisis (SDC) takes a personal approach to member needs—working directly with borrowers to understand their challenges and fears, repayment obstacles and frustrations. SDC tackles the challenges of loan refinancing and consumer protection policies with media and legislators, as well as educating borrowers and higher education experts with lectures, webinars and special events.

Consumer Reports is an expert, independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. Consumer Reports works for pro-consumer policies in the areas of financial services, as well as telecommunications, health care, food and product safety, energy, telecommunications, privacy and data security, and competition and consumer choice, among other issues, in Washington, DC, in the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization, using its dozens of labs, auto test center, and survey research department to rate thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 6 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.

NextGen California is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to working on legislative, budgetary, regulatory, and programmatic issues related to preventing climate change, addressing income inequality, promoting economic prosperity, and protecting the fundamental rights of all Americans. Originally founded in 2014 to focus on climate and environmental policy, in recent years NextGen California has broadened its scope to advance solutions to economic, environmental, and social justice.  Specifically, our policy portfolio now encompasses topics such as: electric vehicles and renewable energy, criminal justice reform and immigration, healthcare and food insecurity, mental health and voting rights, student debt and the census, and affordable housing and drinking water.