Former CFPB Student Loan Watchdog Launches New Organization to Protect Student Borrowers

Student Borrower Protection Center to Lead Nationwide Effort to End the Student Debt Crisis, Empowering Policymakers and Advocates to Take Action; Announces First Series of Initiatives

NOVEMBER 28, 2018 | WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Seth Frotman, the former top student loan official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), launched a new organization to lead a coordinated, nationwide effort to protect student loan borrowers and end the student debt crisis. The Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) is a national nonprofit organization focused solely on alleviating the burden of student debt across America. SBPC is fighting to give a voice to the millions of borrowers who are trapped in a failing student loan system, building a new policy framework that expands borrower protections at all levels of government, and demanding rigorous oversight of the $1.5 trillion student loan market. Led by the team of former top CFPB student loan officials, SBPC will drive substantive reform through aggressive advocacy and innovative litigation strategy. As part of today’s launch, SBPC also announced a new, first-of-its kind partnership with the University of California, Irvine School of Law to build a foundation of research to support this work.

The SPBC launches at a time when the Trump Administration’s political appointees are actively undermining the independence of the CFPB and undercutting protections for student loan borrowers. In response, Frotman and his team resigned from the CFPB in protest, citing these recent, politically driven efforts to shield the student loan industry from scrutiny at borrowers’ expense.Together, these former CFPB officials, joined by experts from outside of government, will lead SBPC as it stands up for student loan borrowers’ rights and ensures that the student debt crisis is no longer ignored.

“Tens of millions of American families are trapped in a broken student loan system, squeezed by rising debt and widespread abuses by a predatory industry,” said Seth Frotman, Executive Director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. “The federal government hasn’t just walked away from the fight on behalf of borrowers, it is actually arming the other side. The Student Borrower Protection Center is hereto fight back—in state capitals, in Congress, in court, and in communities across the country.”

Forty-four million Americans now owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. More than one-in-four student loan borrowers have fallen behind on their student debt. Last year, nearly three times as many student loan borrowers defaulted on a loan as homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure. To convey the breadth of the student debt crisis and describe the impact this debt has on borrowers, SBPC also released a video.

Fighting for borrowers’ rights alongside leaders in and out of government

SBPC will work in close partnership with state and local policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and law enforcement officials at all levels of government. By working with leaders both in and out of government, SBPC will address the burden of student debt for millions of borrowers and challenge a Trump Administration that is determined to protect financial companies and cheat borrowers on every front.

As part of today’s launch, SBPC is also announcing the Student Loan Law Initiative, a new partnership with the University of California, Irvine School of Law to build a foundation of research that will support efforts across the country.  SBPC and UCI Law’s leading scholars, including UCI Law Profs. Dalié Jiménez, a member of the founding staff of the CFPB, and Jonathan Glater, will drive innovative, impactful scholarship on student loan law. Rather than rely on analysis funded by the student loan industry, policymakers will benefit from new, rigorous scholarship that will level the playing field for borrowers and expose the true cost of the student debt crisis. As part of this initiative, SPBC will partner with UCI Law’s Consumer Law Clinic, directed by UCI Law Prof. Stacey Tutt, to leverage clinical practice to protect individual borrowers and advance reform across the student loan system. Together, UCI Law and SBPC will redefine the field of student loan law and drive policy change, advance consumer protection litigation, and protect borrowers’ rights.

To lead a nationwide effort to protect student loan borrowers and halt widespread abuses by the student loan industry, SBPC is building innovative partnerships and projects across the country. Through this work, SBPC will support state and local officials on the front lines of the crisis and drive new action on behalf of borrowers. This groundbreaking work includes:

  • States for Student Borrower Protection. In 2019, a dozen states will consider legislation to demand accountability from the student loan industry. SBPC is empowering state legislators, attorneys general, governors, and advocates to advance state-based efforts to oversee student loan companies and crack down on their illegal practices. By partnering with a broad coalition of local and national organizations, including those representing students, consumers, workers, veterans, older Americans, and communities of color, SBPC’s States Project will support state-led, community-driven organizing efforts to ensure state leaders win the key legislative fights for borrowers’ rights in state capitals.

  • Cities for Student Borrower Protection. SBPC is empowering city governments to develop solutions to our nation’s student debt crisis by supporting local leaders standing up for student loan borrowers. Across the country, cities are working together to halt abuses by the student loan industry, help borrowers take control of debt, and expose the true cost of student debt to local communities. Through its initial partnerships with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, and the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, SBPC’s Cities Project will develop a roadmap for all local leaders who look to use the power of city government to confront industry abuses and address the harmful impact to their cities caused by billions of dollars in student debt.
  • Campaign for a California Borrower Bill of Rights. Unlike for mortgages or credit cards, no federal law offers strong, comprehensive standards to define how student loan companies manage loans for 44 million borrowers, including nearly four million Californians. SBPC is launching a campaign to give California student loan borrowers the same rights guaranteed to consumers who owe nearly any other type of consumer debt. Building on California’s landmark 2016 law that expanded state oversight over student loan companies, California has the building blocks in place to create sweeping protections for student loan borrowers and demand greater accountability from the industry. By banning the worst industry abuses and guaranteeing student loan borrowers their day in court, a California Student Borrower Bill of Rights will ensure California continues to be a national leader for consumer financial protection. Additionally, by leading on this critical issue, California will also serve as a model for other states, thereby driving the response to the student debt crisis nationwide.

  • The Student Loan Justice Fellowship program. SBPC is harnessing the energy and expertise of attorneys and advocates across the country by enlisting these leaders to develop original, groundbreaking analysis and to investigate the real-life impact of America’s student debt crisis. This effort will unlock the insight of established professionals working in courtrooms and communities across the country and leverage their experiences to drive policy change. SBPC’s first class of Student Loan Justice Fellows includes a wide range of attorneys, advocates, and researchers from diverse backgrounds, including former senior federal and state government officials, litigators, consumer advocates, and policy experts.

In the coming months, SBPC will roll out additional projects and campaigns designed to help student loan borrowers. SBPC will also continue to illustrate the depth and urgency of the student debt crisis in innovative and engaging ways including through videos, its new website (www.protectborrowers.org), on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), and through direct engagement with those on the frontlines of the crisis.

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About the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC):

The Student Borrower Protection Center (www.protectborrowers.org) is a nonprofit organization solely 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.

About Seth Frotman, Executive Director, SBPC:

Seth Frotman is the nation’s leading expert on the intersection between higher education finance, consumer protection, and public policy. Seth previously served as Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he drove a government-wide effort to develop consumer-driven policy reforms and protect millions of Americans with student debt. In this role, Seth led the only unit in the federal government tasked with protecting student loan borrowers from predatory actors, driving enforcement actions and policy reforms that returned more than $750 million to student loan borrowers nationwide.

Seth joined the CFPB as part of the Treasury Implementation Team as senior advisor to Holly Petraeus, Assistant Director for Servicemember Affairs. He has also worked on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Patrick Murphy (PA). Prior to his work on federal policy, Seth served as counsel for the New Jersey State Senate, where he worked on state-level consumer protection legislation.

Seth’s work on behalf of student loan borrowers has appeared in national print publications and broadcast media, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and the Washington Post. Seth received his JD from Indiana University School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.