News Column

Menendez, Brown, Booker Introduce Christopher's Law to Improve Student Loan Transparency

June 10, 2014



WASHINGTON, June 10 -- The office of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., issued the following news release:

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced the Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, or Christopher's Law, legislation providing heightened transparency to the student loan process by mandating additional disclosures and protections for students and cosigners in the event of a student's severe injury or untimely death. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

This legislation is named in honor of Christopher Bryski, a New Jersey college student who passed away in 2006 after falling into a two year coma from a severe traumatic brain injury. While mourning the loss of their son, because his father had co-signed his loan, Christopher's family was blind-sided with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt they were obligated to repay his private lender.

"Middle class families like Christopher's should not have to endure the devastating loss of a child only to learn they must also face the financial hardship of a huge student loan debt," said Sen. Menendez, who discussed the proposed law at a hearing today with CFPB Director Cordray on student loan debt. "The Bryski's experience makes clear to me we need to do more to make sure the obligations in repaying student loans - in the case of death or disability - are made clear to both the borrower and the co-signer."

"Student loan borrowers and their co-signers often lack the proper knowledge and information they need to fully understand their financial obligations," Sen. Brown said. "Student lenders and servicers must take steps to ensure borrowers are fully informed of their policies - including what happens to a family and co-signer if tragedy occurs. No family should be getting calls from a collection agent following the death of a loved one."

"We must ensure parents are absolutely clear about student loan lender's policies in the event that the unthinkable happens," Sen Booker said. "Financial institutions should do more to disclose policies that have left grieving families crippled by loss and debt. We have an obligation to make sure that no family experiences what the Bryski's have suffered and I am proud to stand with my colleagues Senators Menendez and Brown to ensure that no family has to."

"We hope Christopher's Law will help families throughout the United States by holding lending institutions accountable for their actions," said Ryan Bryski, Christopher's brother, on behalf of the Bryski Family. "Christopher's Law makes it mandatory for lending institutions to inform families. It's only fair that families know up front what their obligations are, and what to expect during catastrophic situations. This kind of information should not be buried in the fine print. We do not want other families to endure the pain and confusion we, and countless other families, continue to endure. We hope the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will work together to support our bill in honor of Christopher. We are extremely grateful for CFPB's and Congress's constant hard work and support."

According to the CFPB, about 90 percent of private student loans have a cosigner - such as a parent or grandparent - to help a student qualify for a loan or a lower interest rate.

The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, or Christopher's Law:

* Amends the Truth in Lending Act to require lenders of private education loans to:

* Directs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to publish a model form for describing a cosigner's obligations regarding private education loans.

* Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) to require institutions of higher education to provide borrowers of federal education loans information at their entrance counseling

* Requires students applying for federal education loans to designate an individual who is to have the legal authority to act on their behalf with respect to such a loan in the event of their death, disability, or inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity.

* Describe clearly and conspicuously, in writing, the cosigners' obligations regarding such loans, including the effect a borrower's or cosigner's death, disability, or inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity would have on such obligations;

* Require the borrower to designate an individual to have the legal authority to act on behalf of the borrower in the event of the borrower's death, disability, or inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity; and

* Ensure that the borrower, and any cosigner, receives comprehensive information on the loan's terms and conditions and the borrower's responsibilities with respect to such loan.

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