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Senator Eric Lesser’s Student Bill of Rights | Connecting Point | Apr. 5, 2017

September 12, 2019


>>WE ALL KNOW COLLEGE COST MORE
THAN EVER. MANY STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
ARE TAKING ON ENORMOUS DEBT. STATE SENATOR ERIC LESSER HAS
INTRODUCED THE STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS AIMED AT ADDRESSING THE
SITUATION. THE SENATOR AND STUDENT KRISTINA
TADEO CAME TO TALK ABOUT IT.>>THEY ARE NOT TOLD ABOUT HOW
LONG THEY ARE GOING TO LAST, AND AT WORST, THEY ARE ACTIVELY
DECEIVED, AND MISLEAD ABOUT WHAT THE INTEREST RATES WILL BE, WHAT
THE PAYMENT SCHEDULES WILL BE, AND OFTENTIMES IT SEEMS LIKE
EVERYONE IN THIS SYSTEM IS WORKING TO PROTECT THE BANK AND
THE FINANCIAL INSTITUTION AND THE SERVICER RATHER THAN
PROTECTING THE STUDENT AND THEIR FAMILY FOR DOING WHAT ALL OF US
WANT THEM TO DO AND HAVE ASKED THEM TO DO WHICH IS TO GO AND
GET AN EDUCATION SO THAT THEY CAN BE PRODUCTIVE MEMBERS OF
SOCIETY, SO THE IDEA BEHIND OUR BILL IS TO GIVE SOME PROTECTIONS
TO OUR STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES SO THAT THERE WILL BE
SOMEONE IN THE REGULATORY SYSTEM LOOKING OUT FOR THEM, LOOKING
OUT FOR STUDENTS, AND MAKING SURE THAT WE CAN, FOR EXAMPLE,
HOLD THOSE BAGS AND SERVICERS ACCOUNTABLE WHEN THEY DO THINGS
DECEPTIVE OR VIOLATE THE LAW.>>JUHI DASRATH LET ME ASK YOU,
AND CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG, BUT FIRST WE’RE PROUD THAT YOU
WERE A STUDENT INTERN HERE FOR A BIT AT CHANNEL 57, WE ARE VERY
PROUD OF THAT. GRADUATED FROM STCC WITH YOUR
ASSOCIATE’S AGREE, YOU ARE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS
NOW, AND YOU TOLD ME BEFORE THAT YOU WORKED WITH A GROUP THAT
COUNSELED, WOULD BE THE RIGHT WORD, STUDENTS WHO GOT
THEMSELVES INTO SOME FINANCIAL DEBT SO WHILE YOU COME AWAY FROM
STCC WITHOUT BEING SET UP WITH A LOT OF DEBT YOU SURE KNOW ABOUT
A LOT OF STORIES OF FOLKS WHO HAVE BEEN IN TROUBLE.>>YEAH. I WORKED FOR A NONPROFIT
ORGANIZATION, THE PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION NETWORK OF
MASSACHUSETTS. IT WAS — MY BOSS WAS NATALIE
HIGINS, WHO IS THE STATE REPRESENTATIVE OF LEOMINSTER.>>AND HOUSE SPEAKER. I DIDN’T MEAN TO JUMP IN.>>I GOT A LOT OF MY EDUCATION
ABOUT LOANS AND DEBT IN HIGHER EDUCATION FROM HER. I DON’T KNOW IF COUNSEL WOULD BE
THE RIGHT WORD, BUT IT’S MORE OF AN ADVOCATE FOR WHAT HIGHER
EDUCATION MEANT AND SHARING THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING RID OF
THAT IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS, SUCH AS UMASS, SPRINGFIELD
TECHNICAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, AND
THE AFFILIATES AND WESTFIELD STATE, AS WELL.>>AND LET ME COME BACK TO YOU
TO PICK UP ON THAT, KRISTINA TADEO, YOU ARE GETTING READY TO
GRADUATE FROM STCC, CONGRATULATIONS, AND I KNOW YOU
ARE GOING ON TO PRIVATE SCHOOL IN THE BOSTON AREA.>>I AM.>>OH, BOY. I KNOW IT IS NOT AN INEXPENSIVE
PLACE. ARE YOU NOW CONCERNED ABOUT
EXACTLY WHAT THE SENATOR IS TALKING ABOUT IN TERMS OF
BORROWING MONEY, STUDENT DEBT IN A COUPLE OF YEARS, AND WHAT IS
IN YOUR MIND AT THIS POINT?>>SO I WILL BE ATTENDING
COLLEGE IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, FOR BIOCHEMISTRY
ON A PREMED TRACK. I AM AND I AM NOT CONCERNED
ABOUT THAT BECAUSE OF THE WAY THAT THEY FACILITATED AND
PREPARED ME, AND LEFT ME, ESSENTIALLY, DEBT-FREE WHEN
GRADUATING THIS SPRING. SO WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS THAT
THE SCHOLARSHIPS AND THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY HAVE
PROVIDED ME HAS SET ME UP FINANCIALLY TO BE ABLE TO GET
THE COST DOWN TO ALMOST NOTHING, AND I KNOW THAT THAT’S, THAT
SOUNDS, THAT SOUNDS CRAZY BECAUSE SIMMONS IS UPWARDS OF
LIKE 50K A YEAR. BUT LIKE I SAID THROUGH THE
SCHOLARSHIPS AND COMING OUT OF HERE DEBT-FREE AND THE SCHOLARS
THROUGH SIMMONS I’VE BEEN RECEIVING IT’S LOWERED THE COST
AND I BELIEVE THAT THROUGH SPRINGFIELD TECHNICAL COMMUNITY
COLLEGE THIS, WITHOUT IT, IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE.>>SENATOR WE HAVE TWO BRIGHT
STUDENTS HERE OBVIOUSLY. WE’RE TALKING SCHOLARSHIPS, AND
THINGS LIKE THAT, AND NOT EVERYBODY FINDS THEMSELVES IN
THAT SITUATION WHEN THEY — WHETHER THEY GO TO THE TWO YEARS
COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND THEN ON FOR THE FOUR-YEAR DEGREE, YOU
ESPECIALLY WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE STATE HAS SOME POWER TO
REALLY OVERSEE THE LOAN SERVICERS AND THE PROVIDERS.>>FIRST, EWE AND KRISTINA, I
WISH THAT WE COULD CLONE YOU BOTH. WE NEED THEIR STORY AND PATH
REPLICATED ACROSS THE COMMONWEALTH AND ALL OF OUR
YOUNG PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE THE SAME ACCESS
TO COLLEGE THAT THEY HAVE HAD, AND YOU HAVE WORKED VERY HARD
AND YOU DESERVE OUR — OUR YOUNG PEOPLE DESERVE THE CHANCE TO
FOCUS ON THEIR STUDIES, AND FOCUS ON THEIR CAREERS, AND
FOCUS ON BUILDING THEIR LIVES, AND GETTING STARTED RATHER THAN
BEING CONSUMED WITH DEBT AND COLLECTOR’S BILLS AND INTEREST
RATE PAYMENTS. SO WHAT WE’RE TRYING TO DO IS TO
MAKE SURE THAT AS YOU MOVE THROUGH THIS PROCESS, THERE IS
PROTECTIONS IN PLACE SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT OUR BILL DOES IS
CREATES AN OMBUDSMAN BASED IN THE DIVISION OF BANKS IN
MASSACHUSETTS, AND THIS IS A DESIGNATED PERSON AND OFFICE WHO
WILL BE KNOWN TO EVERYONE WHO WILL BE COMPILING AND COLLECTING
COMPLAINTS AND ISSUES THE STUDENTS ARE EXPERIENCING,
PUBLISHING THOSE COMPLAINTS, SO THAT BANKS CAN BE HELD
ACCOUNTABLE AND IMPORTANTLY WE’RE GOING TO GIVE THAT
OMBUDSMAN THE POWER TO, FOR EXAMPLE, TO COLLECT BACK
PAYMENTS IF THEY HAVE BEEN IMPROPERLY COLLECTED, AND ASSESS
FINES AGAINST SERVICERS AND BANKS THAT VIOLATE THE RULES,
AND GIVE TOOLS SO WE CAN REPLICATE THIS. THE MATCH PROGRAM THAT YOU ARE
BOTH BENEFITING FROM, THE STICK MATCH PROGRAM TO TRANSITION TO A
FOUR-YEAR BACHELOR’S DEGREE IS ONE OF THE MOST COST EFFECTIVE
WAYS THAT WE CAN GET YOUNG PEOPLE — THEY ARE NODDING THEIR
HEAD BECAUSE WE KNOW HOW COST EFFECTIVE THIS PROGRAM IS. BUT IT’S NOT FREE. AND IT DOES STILL REQUIRE IN
SOME CASES TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO GET THAT BACHELOR’S
DEGREE, WHICH FOR A LOT OF FAMILIES IS A TWRE — TREMENDOUS
HARDSHIP AND REQUIRES A LOT OF PLANNING, AND THE MOST
RESPONSIBLE FAMILIES DO OFTEN HAVE TO TAKE OUT LOANS. SO WHAT WE NEED TO MAKE SURE IS
WHEN THEY DO TAKE OUT THOSE LOANS, THAT PROTECTIONS ARE
AFFORDED SO THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF.>>HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT SORT OF
THING TO BOTH OF YOU? I REALIZE YOU ARE MOVING INTO
THE LATER YEARS OF YOUR COLLEGE CAREERS. BUT STILL, PROTECTIONS FOR
YOURSELVES AND YOUR FAMILIES, VERY IMPORTANT. KRISTINA.>>IT’S IMPORTANT BECAUSE THE
STUDENTS HERE AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITY COLLEGES NEED TO KNOW
THAT IF THEY WANT TO GRADUATE AND PURSUE A FOUR-YEAR DEGREE
THEY NEED TO KNOW THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF TAKING ON A
LOAN IN THEIR CASES AND THEY NEED TO KNOW THE RIGHTS THAT
THEY HAVE WITHIN THE LOAN AND I THINK THE OMBUDSMAN IS A
WONDERFUL RESOURCE BECAUSE IT REALLY PROTECTS THE STUDENTS AND
AS THE SENATOR LESSER WAS SAYING A LOT OF TIMES THE LOAN IS TO
EQUITY FROM THE BANKS AND NOT TO PROTECT THE STUDENTS. AND WITHIN A LOT OF THESE YOU
HAVE CLAUSES THAT SAY THAT THE STUDENT CANNOT SEEK OUTSIDE HELP
OR OUTSIDE ADVICE FROM ANYONE ELSE. SO THIS OMBUDSMAN REALLY ACTS AS
AN ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF THE STUDENT, AND I JUST THINK THAT
IT’S A REALLY GREAT STEPPING STEPPINGSTONE TO HAVE THE
CONFIDENCE TO MOVE FORWARD ONTO A FOUR-YEAR PROGRAM IF THAT’S
WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO DO.>>LET ME ASK YOU, I WANT TO GO
BACK TO, TALKING ABOUT THE WORK THAT YOU DID FOR THE
NOT-FOR-PROFIT. TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT OTHER
STUDENTS UNDERSTOOD REALLY THE SPOTS THAT THEY COULD GET OR HAD
GOTTEN INTO. HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THAT
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT TODAY IS TO PUT AN END.>>IT IS IMPORTANT NOT ONLY
COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS BUT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO
UNDERSTAND, AS WELL. THEY ARE FACED WITH THE DECISION
OF FOUR-YEAR SCHOOL OR TWO-YEAR SCHOOL AND WHAT THAT MEANS. FOR KRISTINA AND I THE TWO-YEAR
SCHOOL PROVIDED NOT ONLY A STEPPINGSTONE BUT A PLATFORM,
REALLY, TO SET OURSELVES UP TO BE ABLE TO GO ONTO PUBLIC AND
PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS, AND I THINK THAT IT’S VERY IMPORTANT
FOR STUDENTS TO UNDERSTAND PROGRAMS LIKE THE MATCH PROGRAM,
MASS TRANSFER, THESE ARE ALL PROGRAMS THAT ARE THERE TO
FACILITATE THEM INTO THEIR LATER EXPERIENCES IN FOUR-YEAR
COLLEGES.>>ALL THE TIME THAT WE HAVE. KRISTINA TADEO, JUHI DASRATH,
SENATOR LESSER, THANK YOU ALL FOR COMING IN AND BRING US THIS
INFORMATION.

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