Wednesday, May 4th appeared to be a popular day for government officials to call for action in support of New York State college students.  The legislation was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul regarding student college transcript access, and NY Attorney General Letitia James, along with a multistage coalition, wrote to President Biden urging for all publicly held debts for college student borrowers to be canceled.

Governor Hochul Signs Transcript Legislation

The legislation was signed May 4th and prohibits colleges from withholding a student's transcript due to unpaid debts, or, charging students who owe debts a higher fee in order to obtain their transcript.  As a result, students will be able to have unrestricted access to their transcript when they need it to continue their education or secure employment.

In what has been referenced several times as a 'punitive' or 'harmful act,' some colleges across NY state have either withheld transcripts or overcharged students who owed debt as a way to leverage payment.

To hold transcripts hostage until outstanding debts are paid is an unfair, predatory practice that prevents our students from reaching their full potential. I was proud to make ending transcript withholding a top priority and took action to end this practice at SUNY and CUNY in January. Today, we put an end to this abhorrent policy for all higher education institutions to ensure a level playing field for New York's students.

The full press release along with comments from NYS senators and assembly members can be found here.

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Attorney General James Urges Student Debt Cancellation

In a separate but equally as important announcement, NYS Attorney General Letitia James, along with a multistage coalition she led of eight other AGs, urged President Biden, in a letter, to fully cancel federal student debt owed by every federal student loan borrower in the US.

While President Biden recently announced 'serious consideration' that would forgive an amount of $10,000 per borrower, AG James says that a bolder more decisive action is needed.

Student debt keeps millions of struggling borrowers from reaching financial stability and leads to a cycle of financial burdens that follow them throughout their lives. I join my colleagues in urging President Biden to lead one of the most impactful racial and economic justice initiatives in history by canceling this debt, in its entirety, for all.

Prior Student Loan Borrower Support from the Attorney General

This is not the first letter or call for action from Attorney General James when it comes to supporting student loan borrowers.

  • January 2019 - $9 million agreement with a federal student loan servicer following an investigation about the company's practices.
  • June 2019/September 2020 - $7.5 million in debt relief to students after deceiving practices by two loan companies that targeted technical institute students into taking out private student loans.
  • June 2020 - a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Education/former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from repealing the Gainful Employment rule and protections it provided to students after graduation.
  • July 2020 - sued U.S. Department of Education/former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' efforts to repeal critical protections for student borrowers who were misled or defrauded by for-profit schools.
  • April 2021 - outreach to the U.S. Department of Education to cancel federal student loan debt of the students defrauded in the above technical institute case.
  • September 2021 - letter to the U.S. Department of Education for action to address the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • January 2022 - $1.85 billion agreement with one of the largest student loan servicers in the nation that had practices that caused students to pay more than they should.
  • April 2022 - secured debt relief for thousands of New York State borrowers who had federal loans mismanaged.
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What Do Borrowers Currently Owe?

As it currently stands, a total of $1.7 trillion is owed by student borrowers to the federal government.  According to CNBC, this year’s incoming freshman class can expect to borrow nearly $40,000 to help cover the cost of a bachelor’s degree.

The Argument for Fully Canceling Student Debt

Obviously, the main reason behind the request to cancel student debt is to address the amount of money owed by student borrowers, but it will also help 'reduce stress and mental fatigue and provide countless opportunities for borrowers, such as saving for retirement and purchasing new homes.'

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