(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is defending the tens of thousands of Montanans with student loan debt by pushing back against the Administration’s attempt to decimate one of the government’s main student loan watchdogs.
Tester wrote directly to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Mick Mulvaney after he announced plans to defang the agency’s Office of Students and Young Consumers by limiting its investigative and enforcement powers and folding what’s left of it into the Bureau’s Office of Financial Education.
“Student loan debt across this country is hampering the middle-class and placing undue stress on students and families alike,” Tester told Mulvaney. “We should be doing everything we can to make folks more informed about student loan debt and the rights they have under the law, not less.”
In addition to helping students understand and navigate ways to finance their education, the Office of Students and Young Consumers collects and investigates consumer complaints to create better guidance, regulations and—when necessary—pursue legal action against predatory lenders and debt collectors. Since 2011, the Office has investigated more than 50,000 student loan-related complaints, leading to high-profile settlements with for-profit colleges like ITT Tech and ongoing legal action against student loan providers like Navient. As a result of this work, the CFPB has collected more than $750 million for students who have been harmed by these bad actors.
“In the last year alone, student loan debt grew by $29 billion and stood at nearly $1.5 trillion overall,” Tester wrote. “These stats show us all that students across this country need help navigating the student loan space, which is exactly the kind of work the Office of Students and Young Consumers was doing until earlier this month. On behalf of the millions of students and families across this nation who are struggling to make ends meet, while trying to improve their education, I urge you to preserve the Office of Students and Young Consumers.”
Tester has been a relentless advocate for consumer protection, holding companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax accountable in the wake of recent scandals with the help of the CFPB. Tester also recently grilled Mulvaney about the sky-high salaries of his political appointees, despite Mulvaney’s efforts to cut funding, halt investigations, and implement a hiring freeze at the CFPB.