By Mike Pierce | October 22, 2020
Last month, California lawmakers took decisive action to protect borrowers by passing a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights. For the nearly four million student loan borrowers in the state, the new protections and rights provided by AB 376 are desperately needed. Like millions of other borrowers across the country, Californians are facing a student debt crisis that hampers financial lives and leaves too many at the mercy of companies that have been cheating borrowers out of their rights.
AB 376 changes that. The legislation puts in place new, strong consumer protections to prevent predatory student loan companies from harming borrowers while requiring extra help for military families, nurses, teachers, older Americans, and borrowers with disabilities. Additionally, borrowers in California now have the right to take legal action against a student loan company if they are cheated or mistreated.
These new rights and protections were hard fought and won by lawmakers and the dedicated efforts of a diverse coalition of organizations representing millions of Californians from all walks of life.
Assemblymember Mark Stone introduced the Student Borrower Bill of Rights in February 2019. Shortly after, the SBPC joined with NextGen California, Consumer Reports Advocacy, Young Invincibles, Student Debt Crisis, and the California Federation of Teachers to champion this bill. Together, this coalition led efforts to educate the public and other lawmakers about the need to pass AB 376 on behalf of California borrowers. By August 2020, the groups supporting passage had expanded into a coalition of more than 90 organizations representing students, workers, consumers, older Americans, communities of color, and veterans, along with local governments and key members of the California business community.
The onset of the pandemic brought new urgency in the fight to pass AB 376, as advocates redoubled efforts and thousands more Californians mobilized and reached out to lawmakers urging passage.
The passage of AB 376 is an enormous victory for student loan borrowers in California. Now advocates and the state can turn their full attention to putting the new tools this law provides to use—empowering borrowers and stamping out abuses by the student loan industry. Building on the strong foundation created by AB 376, we will continue to fight for additional protections for student loan borrowers across California.
Mike Pierce is the Policy Director and Managing Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center. He is an attorney, advocate, and former senior regulator who joined SBPC after more than a decade fighting for student loan borrowers’ rights on Capitol Hill and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.