New Analysis Reveals New Yorkers Suffer Under the Weight of Historic Levels of Student Debt, Empire State Must Take Action to Protect Borrowers

As the Legislative Session Begins, New Yorkers Now Owe More Than $90 Billion in Student Debt, Impacting Student Loan Borrowers of All Ages

JANUARY 24, 2019 | WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) and New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL) released a new analysis demonstrating the scale of the student debt crisis in New York. This new analysis of government data shows that more than one-in-five New York consumers now owe student loan debt. For the first time, nearly half of all millennials in New York owe money on a student loan. This analysis makes a clear and compelling case for New York to take action to protect student loan borrowers from illegal student loan industry practices. Today’s release comes in the wake of Governor Cuomo’s 2019 agenda, in which he has pledged to advance “sweeping protections by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers to obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and regulations governing other significant lending products.”

Nearly Half of All Millennials in New York Owe Money on a Student Loan

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

  • New Yorkers owe more than $90 billion in student debt;
  • Nearly half of young adults in New York (ages 18-35) owe student loan debt;
  • More than 200,000 older borrowers (ages 55-85) owe student loan debt; more than 10% of them are severely delinquent on their student loans;
  • More than half a million student loan borrowers are living in rural New York; nearly 70,000 of them severely delinquent on student loans; and
  • Since 2012, more than 4,300 New Yorkers have submitted complaints about their student loan companies.

“As student loan borrowers in New York 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 millions of New Yorkers aside in the process. The borrowers across New York cannot wait any longer for predatory student loan companies to be held accountable.”

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed student loan protections are critically needed to protect New York borrowers against unfair and predatory practices,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumer Reports advocacy division. “More than 170 member organizations in the New Yorkers for Responsible Lending coalition support the student loan consumer protections, including consumer, legal services, senior, labor and financial justice advocacy organizations.”

“We know that the Governor’s proposed student loan consumer protections have broad support in the Assembly and Senate, because we’ve talked with dozens of legislators about them over the last two years,” Bell said. “With one out of every five New Yorkers owing student debt—and over 4,300 complaints received from New York loan borrowers by federal agencies—this is an urgent time for the state to move forward on strengthening state oversight of the student loan servicing industry.”

“We consistently receive calls from New Yorkers whose wages or Social Security benefits are being garnished, whose tax refunds have been seized, and whose credit has been ruined simply because servicers are not working in the best interests of student loan borrowers,” said Evan Denerstein, Senior Staff Attorney at Mobilization for Justice. “This crisis most acutely affects vulnerable and disenfranchised members of our communities, including seniors, and it will only increase as more students rely on loans to fund the ever-increasing cost of higher education. Governor Cuomo’s proposal will put servicers on notice that the current state of affairs is unacceptable and compel bad actors to immediately reform their practices.”

Student loan borrowers across New York continue to suffer under the weight of mounting debt and face new hurdles from predatory companies. This analysis exposes the rising levels of unsustainable debt shouldered by borrowers of all ages, in communities across the State of New York. Yet the Trump Administration continues to ignore mounting evidence of the nation’s growing student debt crisis. Not only has the federal government halted efforts to protect student loan borrowers, it is turning a blind eye from predatory practices and enabling bad actors to harm borrowers.

As the new legislative session begins, the SBPC and NYRL are demanding accountability from the companies at the center of a broken student loan system. This new analysis bolsters the case made by leaders across New York that the state must take immediate action to demand justice for student loan borrowers in their communities. As part of the 2019 Budget, Governor Cuomo has introduced a program bill to require student loan servicers to be licensed and subject to oversight by the New York Department of Financial Services. Governor Cuomo’s bill would help ensure that student loan servicers do not mislead borrowers, misapply payments, or provide credit reporting agencies within accurate information. 

In 2017, the New York Assembly passed a similar bill (A.7582) introduced by Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski that would, for the first time, demand accountability from student loan companies doing business in New York by requiring student loan servicers to secure a license and be subject to state oversight. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate, but did not advance to the floor.

SBPC HELPING STATES FIGHT FOR 44 MILLION AMERICANS WITH STUDENT DEBT

In the face of continuing systemic abuses across the student loan industry, state governments are taking action to expand protections for student loan borrowers and halt illegal practices by predatory companies. Last year, the Student Borrower Protection Center launched States for Student Borrower Protection, an initiative that highlights the student debt crisis in New York, and is designed to support the leaders in and out of government working to end this crisis through state level actions. Today’s release offers further evidence that state action is urgently needed.

This new analysis is part of an ongoing series of original research, projects, and campaigns by SBPC designed to help student loan borrowers by shedding light on the crisis and empower advocates.

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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 New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL):

New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL) (www.facebook.com/nyresponsiblelending) is a statewide coalition that promotes access to fair and affordable financial services and the preservation of assets for all New Yorkers and their communities. NYRL is committed to fighting predatory practices in the financial services industry through policy reform, education and outreach, research and direct services. NYRL’s 170 members represent community financial institutions, community-based organizations, affordable housing and first-time homebuyer groups, advocates for seniors, legal services organizations, and community reinvestment, fair lending, and consumer advocacy groups.