For Immediate Release:
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Encourages New Yorkers to "Be Real" About Student Loan Debt in New Public Awareness Campaign

NEW YORK, NY – Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced, on #FinHealthMatters Day, the launch of a new public awareness campaign about student loan debt. The campaign aims to educate the 1 million New Yorkers with student loans, as well as prospective students, about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to student loans.

“As someone who has dealt with student loans myself, I know how hard it can be to manage the debt and the stress they can cause,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “With yet another class of borrowers about to graduate and face the reality of their student loans—and add to the country’s $1.56 trillion balance—there is no doubt that we are a facing a crisis and that so many borrowers don’t know where to turn. It is instilled in us that the pursuit of higher education will lead to a better life, but for decades, we have avoided the realities about the debt that students are taking on in pursuit of that dream—it’s time to be real.”

The new multilingual campaign, entitled “Be Real about Student Loans” will inform New Yorkers about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to student loans, including payment options and resources to aid decision-making; warn about predatory practices by some schools and raise awareness about the NYC Financial Empowerment Centers where New Yorkers can get free financial counseling and referrals to legal services. The ads will run in the city’s subway cars, bus shelters, LinkNYC, as well as in print, on radio, online, and in neighborhood businesses.


DCWP will also be holding student loan debt clinics to help New Yorkers understand their student loans and how to repay them. This event is part of a series to assist New Yorkers who have questions or concerns in dealing with or understanding their student loan debt. The student loan debt clinics will include free confidential one-on-one financial counseling and legal aid professionals will be onsite to provide assistance if needed. To stay up to date on upcoming events, visit DCWP’s event calendar.

In New York City, more than one in six—or approximately 1 million—adults have at least one student loan and collectively they owe $34.8 billion. This debt burden has a profound impact on the financial health of New Yorkers and disproportionately affects older borrowers, borrowers of color, and borrowers living in lower-income neighborhoods. Given the negative impact that student loan debt has on the daily economic lives of New Yorkers and the detrimental effect it has on achieving equality in our city, DCWP is employing a multi-pronged approach of education, advocacy, and enforcement to tackle this issue.

“New Yorkers deserve to be clear-eyed about the realities of student loan debt,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “As we celebrate record-high college enrollment, our focus is on supporting every student in making smart, well-informed postsecondary choices. We’re excited to partner with DCWP on this important campaign to protect students, which goes hand-in-hand with the work we’re doing in our high schools every day through our College Access for All initiative.”

“As more communities experience the devastating impact of the student debt crisis, we must continue to identify creative ways to better empower and protect loan borrowers from predatory loan companies,” said Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) Executive Director Seth Frotman. “Our partnership with DCWP builds on that important work to strengthen communities and bring to light many of the challenges that are crippling the financial futures of too many vulnerable citizens that call New York City home.”

“For too long, New York’s students have not had adequate support to navigate the complexities of student loan repayment,” said Melanie Kruvelis, Northeast Policy Analyst at Young Invincibles. “We applaud the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s new campaign for bringing awareness to the real-world impact of student loans and connecting the city’s borrowers with much-needed resources on repayment. And while Washington and Albany have stepped back from holding for-profit colleges accountable for their students’ outcomes, we commend the Department for arming students with information on predatory practices from colleges that have taken advantage of New York’s students.”

“Education should help clear the pathway towards upward mobility. For too many families, however, the burden of student loans becomes too great, preventing intergenerational asset and wealth creation. And for historically underserved communities of color, student loans can cause even deeper poverty, widening our country’s racial wealth gap. Restoration applauds DCWP on addressing student loan debt and looks forward to continuing our deep partnership in tackling this pervasive issue affecting our communities,” Tracey Capers, Executive Vice President, Programs/Organizational Development at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

“The Financial Clinic is very excited to be able to help hundreds of New Yorkers get control of their student debt, often one of the largest and most stressful debts that New Yorkers face. The Student Loan Debt Clinics allow our coaches to meet with new customers, expand their reach, and get the word out about financial coaching to those who need it. The clinics are an amazing resource and we are honored to be a part of this program,” said Haidee Cabusora, Chief Program Office, The Financial Clinic.

“Student loan debt is too often a decades-long sentence for borrowers, creating a drag on workers’ disposable incomes, credit profiles, and overall financial health. The cumulative impact of student debt frequently results in our clients delaying major life decisions such as getting married, having children, saving to purchase a home, or funding their retirement accounts because they're just barely scraping by,” noted Justine Zinkin, CEO of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. “DCWP is sounding the alarm on the burden of student loans and leading a much-needed shift in the conversation about higher learning, and we are proud to partner with DCWP on such an important initiative.”

“Phipps Neighborhoods is proud to participate in the Student Loan Debt campaign and Student Loan Debt Clinics throughout the city. As many as 44.7 million Americans have student loan debt, according to a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The total amount of student loan debt is $1.47 trillion as of the end of 2018 — more than credit cards or auto loans. Phipps Financial Empowerment Center is excited to partner with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to support individuals who are struggling with repayment of loans,” said Dianne Morales, Executive Director, CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods.

“Urban Upbound is a proud partner of the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection in addressing the student loan crisis that affects so many New Yorkers. Student loans are financially crippling and delay residents’ ability to save, invest, and build long-term assets such as home ownership. There is no better time than now to make residents aware of the benefits of working with a Financial Empowerment Center financial counselor to prevent the catastrophic impact of student loan debt,” said Bethany Goldszer, Managing Director, Urban Upbound.

Any New Yorker struggling with debt, planning to take out student loans, or who needs help navigating loan repayment options can make an appointment for free, one-on-one financial counseling at one of DCWP’s more than 20 Financial Empowerment Centers throughout all five boroughs. To make an appointment for financial counseling or to download tips about student loans, visit or call 311. DCWP is also encouraging New Yorkers to #TalkStudentLoans on social media (@NYCDCA on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).

The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP)—formerly the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)—protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit us at or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Abigail Lootens/Jade Acosta
Department of Consumer Affairs
(212) 436-0042

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