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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Feb 19, 2013

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One state assemblyman in California has had enough of lenders plaguing private college loan borrowers. Unlike most everyone else that complains about college debt, he actually has the power to do something about it too.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski plans to push forward AB 233, a bill to prohibit lenders from garnishing the wages of student borrowers.  It is part of his “Student Bill of Rights” package that will also require entrance and exit college loan counseling for all private student loans. Additionally, the assemblyman introduced Joint Resolution 11, which urges Congress to change bankruptcy laws in order to allow private loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

Assemblyman Wieckowski told loans.org that the Student Bill of Rights package would feature two components. One would educate prospective borrowers before they put pen to paper and agree to take on debt. The other would help assist those borrowers who already find themselves in debt or who are already having their wages garnished due to lack of payment.

According to a press release from the Assemblyman on the California State Assembly Democratic Caucus website, college loan borrowers can have up to 25 percent of their income garnished; a threatening prospect in an already weak economy with stagnant salary growth.

“I am targeting private student loans because they are the riskiest for students,” said Wieckowski.

He continued to explain that private student loan borrowers lacked the safeguards of federal student loans. Without such features as repayment plans, forbearance, death and liability discharges, and unemployment deferments, many private loan borrowers end up seeing their wages garnished.

The assemblyman is not naïve enough to believe that the private college loan industry will not voice their opposition to his bill.

“I know from experience that there are some powerful special interests involved in higher education and lending. But I am optimistic that my colleagues, aware that many of their constituents are saddled with students loans that they cannot discharge, will be supportive of this package,” said Wieckowski.

Not limiting the scope of his legislative plans to just college students, Wieckowski envisions that financial education can begin earlier in life; perhaps even alongside introductory math classes in grades K-12.

“I am a bankruptcy attorney and I know we need to do more to give students a strong foundation in financial literacy. They need a better understanding of budgeting, savings, credit, identity theft, how to plan and pay for college, and overall personal finance,” said Wieckowski.

In March, the assemblyman will hold a rally at the state Capitol alongside student organizations and lending reform activists.