Thanks to the efforts of Senator Lesser, Representative Higgins, and countless other student loan advocates, Massachusetts passed its own Student Loan Bill of Rights earlier this year. Now it is time to ensure that the bill is implemented in its entirety and that the necessary oversight is put in place so that servicers cannot engage in unfair or deceptive practices.
This is why we were thrilled when many prominent student loan advocates testified earlier this month at the hearing on the proposed amendments to 209 CMR 18.00 and 209 CMR 48.00. Advocates offered their expert recommendations to ensure that the new rules protect MA student loan borrowers to their fullest. The full transcript of Hildreth Institute’s testimony can be found below.
In addition, we gathered signatures from a dozen partner organizations in support of the written comments provided by Winston Berkman-Breen Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the Student Borrowers Protection Center. An expert on consumer protection, Winston provided a detailed account on how to improve the regulations, while outlining the concerns of numerous student loan advocates. This letter can be found here.
We would like to thank all our partners for their advocacy, expertise, and dedication to protecting student loan borrowers in Massachusetts:
Student Borrower Protection Center, Consumer Reports, Greenfield Community College, Inversant, Isaac Bears, Medford City Councilor, La Vida Scholars, Law Office of Adam S. Minsky, MASSPIRG, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts), Rian Immigrant Center, Student Debt Crisis, The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, uAspire, and Zero Debt Massachusetts.
Public Hearing on Proposed Amendments to 209 CMR 18.00 and 209 CMR 48.00
Transcript of Hildreth Institute’s Full Oral Testimony
I am Lawrence Chan, testifying on behalf of Hildreth Institute, a research and policy center working to ensure that student loan borrowers’ rights are protected.
I would like to first thank the Division of Banks for the opportunity to testify on the regulations governing the implementation of the Student loan borrowers’ bill of rights. We would also like to thank Senator Lesser and Representative Higgins for their leadership on the issue and the many student borrowers advocates who fought tirelessly to ensure that MA borrowers are protected from unfair practices and that students and families have access to accurate information about loans and repayment options.
The passage of this bill could not be of greater importance to borrowers and their families as this bill codifies desperately needed protections for student loan borrowers here in Massachusetts. The numerous complaints and lawsuits brought against student loans servicers illustrate the need for the same regulation and oversight over the student loan industry that govern other financial institutions. While we will be submitting a more detailed written comment regarding the proposed regulations, due to time restrictions, we would like to draw attention to two specific points here.
First, we would like to emphasize that the intent of this bill was to regulate the student loan servicing industry. Therefore, we would like to ensure that the definition of the entities covered by these regulations do not inadvertently include non-student loan servicing entities, such as loan counselors, attorneys, and other individuals who support borrowers and advise them on their loans. We strongly urge the DOB to clarify their definition of servicers.
Second, we would like to draw attention to the bifurcation of responsibilities that the legislation has mandated between the Division of Banks and the Office of the Attorney General. Special attention must be paid to ensure that proposed regulations allow and facilitate the seamless cooperation between these two offices. The collaboration and information sharing between these two offices is critical to ensuring that the regulation, oversight and enforcement efforts with respect to student loan servicers is adequately implemented and improved upon. We thus respectfully request that the amendments include explicit languages that codify the timing and information-sharing protocol between these two offices.
To conclude, I would like to thank you for considering our recommendations and look forward to these critical student borrowers’ protections being implemented effectively and in their entirety.