South Brooklyn pol pens new law to combat student debt

Councilmember and former New Utrecht High School history teacher Mark Treyger hopes his latest legislation, signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, March 30, will tackle student debt head-on by shaping students to become more financially literate.

The bill, which will now require the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to provide financial outreach and education to young adults, especially those in high school looking towards college, is close to Treyger’s heart.

“As a former teacher, I saw first-hand how students were really being targeted by credit card companies and other financial institutions to take on debt at a very early age, even before they entered college,” said the South Brooklyn rep who, as a teacher, could only provide his students with advice. “We, in the Council, cannot mandate what the Department of Education includes in its curriculum, but what we could do was require an agency like [DCA] to produce financial literacy materials and make them available to schools.”

With the graduating class of 2014 recently declared the most indebted class in college history (and the Class of 2015 expected to follow suit), these materials should help young adults make “sound financial decisions,” even before college, said Treyger.

Class of 2014 graduate Ryan Bacci was quick to applaud the bill.

“Not only do I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s necessary,” said the 22-year-old Queens resident and Iona College graduate, currently making his way through graduate school abroad. “One of the biggest criticisms of our education system is that we don’t receive enough practical training about real world things. Understanding your student loan and how credit works is quite possibly the most important skill because it will influence your life decisions in the first decade or two of your adult life.”

“More and more young people are being burdened by heavier debts so we need to fight back,” stressed Treyger adding that, in addition to materials, the DCA will be required to conduct an outreach program similar to those done by the city in midst of the change in paid sick leave.

Materials will touch upon types of loans and interest rates, common pitfalls and more.

“Statistics suggest there is a need for financial education targeted to young adults,” said co-sponsoring Councilmember Rafael Espinal, chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “It is sad to hear that as much as 12 percent of them are unbanked, 43 percent have used non-bank methods of borrowing, and 34 percent have engaged in three or more costly credit card behaviors. This is an important step towards improving financial literacy for younger New Yorkers and I thank my colleague, Councilmember Mark Treyger, for bringing this issue to the forefront.”

“We do not want our kids to become a slave to debt,” said Treyger.

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