Free My Future: Student Loan Debt Summit

On Wednesday, November 17th and Thursday, November 18th, NextGen Policy and a group of truly amazing guests hosted our third annual Free My Future: Virtual Student Loan Debt Summit. This two-day virtual event was a fantastic opportunity for California policymakers, legislative staff, advocates, and for anyone who is a borrower to learn more about how to overcome student debt, hear directly from policymakers and leaders, and connect with other advocates.

“It's no secret that the weight of student loan debt is crushing millions of Americans. In the wake of the pandemic, the student loan landscape has changed. Borrowers have more repayment options & policymakers have a responsibility to respond to the student debt crisis with permanent solutions.”

— Samantha Seng, Nextgen Policy Advisor, Higher Education

Opening Keynote Speakers

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

On April 23, 2021, Rob Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California, the first person of Filipino descent and the second Asian-American to occupy the position.

Attorney General Bonta’s passion for justice and fairness was instilled in him by his parents, who served on the frontlines of some of America’s most important social justice movements. Instilling in him the lessons they learned from the United Farm Workers and the civil rights movement, Attorney General Bonta’s parents lit a fire inside him to fight against injustice — to stand up for those who are taken advantage of or harmed. It’s why he decided to become a lawyer — to help right historic wrongs and fight for people who have been harmed. He worked his way through college and graduated with honors from Yale University and attended Yale Law School.

In the State Assembly, Attorney General Bonta enacted nation-leading reforms to inject more justice and fairness into government and institutions. As the People’s Attorney, he sees seeking accountability from those who abuse their power and harm others as one of the most important functions of the job. In elected office, he has taken on powerful interests and advanced systemic change — pursuing corporate accountability, standing up for workers, punishing big polluters, and fighting racial injustice. He has been a national leader in the fight to transform the criminal justice system, banning private prisons and detention facilities in California, as well as pushing to eliminate cash bail in the state. He has led statewide fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice and worked to further the rights of immigrant families, renters, and working Californians.

Prior to serving in the Assembly, Attorney General Bonta worked as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Attorney General Bonta immigrated to California with his family as an infant. He is the son of a proud native Filipino mother and a father who taught him the value of public service to his community. He is married to Mia Bonta, and they are the proud parents of three children Reina, Iliana, and Andres, as well as their dog Legolas.

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Richard A. Cordray is the chief operating officer for the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). FSA administers the federal student aid programs, which—in Fiscal Year 2020—provided more than $115 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to 10.8 million students at nearly 5,600 schools. In total, FSA oversees a federal student loan portfolio valued at more than $1.5 trillion representing more than 45 million customers.

Cordray is responsible for strategic and operational management of FSA. He brings extensive leadership and expertise to this role, as well as a commitment to serving consumers and American families. His public service includes several senior state and federal positions, including as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from 2012 and 2017.

During his CFPB tenure, the agency brought enforcement actions that returned more than $12 billion to 30 million Americans. The CFPB created a consumer response system that gave people a voice; more than 1.3 million people had financial issues resolved by the new system. Under Cordray’s leadership, CFPB also adopted new rules to safeguard the multi-trillion-dollar mortgage market and took significant steps to protect student loan borrowers against abuses.

Before joining CFPB, Cordray served as the Ohio Attorney General, where he and his team recovered more than $2 billion for Ohio’s retirees, investors, and business owners and took major steps to protect consumers from fraudulent foreclosures and financial predators. Cordray also served as the Ohio Treasurer, where he led the state’s banking, investment, debt, and financing activities; as Ohio’s first Solicitor General; and in the Ohio General Assembly.

Cordray majored in legal and political theory at Michigan State University’s James Madison College. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics while a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University in England. He then earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He clerked for Judge Robert Bork on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He has since argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was a professor of constitutional law for many years.

Cordray is married and is the father of twins who are college graduates in the Class of 2021.

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

In response to federal inaction and mounting student loan abuses, Assemblymember Mark Stone crafted a two-pronged approach to addressing this predatory behavior – a licensing scheme and consumer-facing protections. In 2016, he authored AB 2251 to create a program within the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to license and regulate student loan servicers. Three years later, he introduced AB 376 which established the Student Borrower Bill of Rights to ensure student borrowers are given reliable information, quality customer service, and meaningful access to repayment and forgiveness programs. Assemblymember Stone most recently authored AB 424 in 2021 to protect private student loan borrowers from unsubstantiated collections and lawsuits on illegitimate debts. His work continues to put California on the forefront of student loan protections.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director, NextGen Policy

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Arnie Sowell is Executive Director of NextGen Policy (NGP), a non-profit organization that works to advance progressive policy solutions across a range of areas including: climate change, affordable housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, immigration, mental health, voting rights, food insecurity, and income inequality. Arnie leads the NGP team and manages their legislative, political, advocacy, and programmatic activities.

Before joining NextGen, Arnie spent over two decades in the California State Assembly, serving as Policy Director for five Assembly Speakers. Prior to that, he held various positions in state and local government including as Undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency during the Governor Davis Administration and as a Budget Manager in the San Francisco Mayor’s office. Arnie started his career in the Legislative Analyst Office.

He is an Oregon State alum, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Washington. Arnie is a proud father of three and a new grandfather. He is the son of a career military officer and has lived in numerous states and overseas.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

On April 23, 2021, Rob Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California, the first person of Filipino descent and the second Asian-American to occupy the position.

Attorney General Bonta’s passion for justice and fairness was instilled in him by his parents, who served on the frontlines of some of America’s most important social justice movements. Instilling in him the lessons they learned from the United Farm Workers and the civil rights movement, Attorney General Bonta’s parents lit a fire inside him to fight against injustice — to stand up for those who are taken advantage of or harmed. It’s why he decided to become a lawyer — to help right historic wrongs and fight for people who have been harmed. He worked his way through college and graduated with honors from Yale University and attended Yale Law School.

In the State Assembly, Attorney General Bonta enacted nation-leading reforms to inject more justice and fairness into government and institutions. As the People’s Attorney, he sees seeking accountability from those who abuse their power and harm others as one of the most important functions of the job. In elected office, he has taken on powerful interests and advanced systemic change — pursuing corporate accountability, standing up for workers, punishing big polluters, and fighting racial injustice. He has been a national leader in the fight to transform the criminal justice system, banning private prisons and detention facilities in California, as well as pushing to eliminate cash bail in the state. He has led statewide fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice and worked to further the rights of immigrant families, renters, and working Californians.

Prior to serving in the Assembly, Attorney General Bonta worked as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Attorney General Bonta immigrated to California with his family as an infant. He is the son of a proud native Filipino mother and a father who taught him the value of public service to his community. He is married to Mia Bonta, and they are the proud parents of three children Reina, Iliana, and Andres, as well as their dog Legolas.

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Richard A. Cordray is the chief operating officer for the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). FSA administers the federal student aid programs, which—in Fiscal Year 2020—provided more than $115 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to 10.8 million students at nearly 5,600 schools. In total, FSA oversees a federal student loan portfolio valued at more than $1.5 trillion representing more than 45 million customers.

Cordray is responsible for strategic and operational management of FSA. He brings extensive leadership and expertise to this role, as well as a commitment to serving consumers and American families. His public service includes several senior state and federal positions, including as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from 2012 and 2017.

During his CFPB tenure, the agency brought enforcement actions that returned more than $12 billion to 30 million Americans. The CFPB created a consumer response system that gave people a voice; more than 1.3 million people had financial issues resolved by the new system. Under Cordray’s leadership, CFPB also adopted new rules to safeguard the multi-trillion-dollar mortgage market and took significant steps to protect student loan borrowers against abuses.

Before joining CFPB, Cordray served as the Ohio Attorney General, where he and his team recovered more than $2 billion for Ohio’s retirees, investors, and business owners and took major steps to protect consumers from fraudulent foreclosures and financial predators. Cordray also served as the Ohio Treasurer, where he led the state’s banking, investment, debt, and financing activities; as Ohio’s first Solicitor General; and in the Ohio General Assembly.

Cordray majored in legal and political theory at Michigan State University’s James Madison College. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics while a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University in England. He then earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He clerked for Judge Robert Bork on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He has since argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was a professor of constitutional law for many years.

Cordray is married and is the father of twins who are college graduates in the Class of 2021.

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

In response to federal inaction and mounting student loan abuses, Assemblymember Mark Stone crafted a two-pronged approach to addressing this predatory behavior – a licensing scheme and consumer-facing protections. In 2016, he authored AB 2251 to create a program within the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to license and regulate student loan servicers. Three years later, he introduced AB 376 which established the Student Borrower Bill of Rights to ensure student borrowers are given reliable information, quality customer service, and meaningful access to repayment and forgiveness programs. Assemblymember Stone most recently authored AB 424 in 2021 to protect private student loan borrowers from unsubstantiated collections and lawsuits on illegitimate debts. His work continues to put California on the forefront of student loan protections.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director, NextGen Policy

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Arnie Sowell is Executive Director of NextGen Policy (NGP), a non-profit organization that works to advance progressive policy solutions across a range of areas including: climate change, affordable housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, immigration, mental health, voting rights, food insecurity, and income inequality. Arnie leads the NGP team and manages their legislative, political, advocacy, and programmatic activities.

Before joining NextGen, Arnie spent over two decades in the California State Assembly, serving as Policy Director for five Assembly Speakers. Prior to that, he held various positions in state and local government including as Undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency during the Governor Davis Administration and as a Budget Manager in the San Francisco Mayor’s office. Arnie started his career in the Legislative Analyst Office.

He is an Oregon State alum, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Washington. Arnie is a proud father of three and a new grandfather. He is the son of a career military officer and has lived in numerous states and overseas.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

On April 23, 2021, Rob Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California, the first person of Filipino descent and the second Asian-American to occupy the position.

Attorney General Bonta’s passion for justice and fairness was instilled in him by his parents, who served on the frontlines of some of America’s most important social justice movements. Instilling in him the lessons they learned from the United Farm Workers and the civil rights movement, Attorney General Bonta’s parents lit a fire inside him to fight against injustice — to stand up for those who are taken advantage of or harmed. It’s why he decided to become a lawyer — to help right historic wrongs and fight for people who have been harmed. He worked his way through college and graduated with honors from Yale University and attended Yale Law School.

In the State Assembly, Attorney General Bonta enacted nation-leading reforms to inject more justice and fairness into government and institutions. As the People’s Attorney, he sees seeking accountability from those who abuse their power and harm others as one of the most important functions of the job. In elected office, he has taken on powerful interests and advanced systemic change — pursuing corporate accountability, standing up for workers, punishing big polluters, and fighting racial injustice. He has been a national leader in the fight to transform the criminal justice system, banning private prisons and detention facilities in California, as well as pushing to eliminate cash bail in the state. He has led statewide fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice and worked to further the rights of immigrant families, renters, and working Californians.

Prior to serving in the Assembly, Attorney General Bonta worked as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Attorney General Bonta immigrated to California with his family as an infant. He is the son of a proud native Filipino mother and a father who taught him the value of public service to his community. He is married to Mia Bonta, and they are the proud parents of three children Reina, Iliana, and Andres, as well as their dog Legolas.

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education Richard Cordray

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Richard A. Cordray is the chief operating officer for the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). FSA administers the federal student aid programs, which—in Fiscal Year 2020—provided more than $115 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to 10.8 million students at nearly 5,600 schools. In total, FSA oversees a federal student loan portfolio valued at more than $1.5 trillion representing more than 45 million customers.

Cordray is responsible for strategic and operational management of FSA. He brings extensive leadership and expertise to this role, as well as a commitment to serving consumers and American families. His public service includes several senior state and federal positions, including as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from 2012 and 2017.

During his CFPB tenure, the agency brought enforcement actions that returned more than $12 billion to 30 million Americans. The CFPB created a consumer response system that gave people a voice; more than 1.3 million people had financial issues resolved by the new system. Under Cordray’s leadership, CFPB also adopted new rules to safeguard the multi-trillion-dollar mortgage market and took significant steps to protect student loan borrowers against abuses.

Before joining CFPB, Cordray served as the Ohio Attorney General, where he and his team recovered more than $2 billion for Ohio’s retirees, investors, and business owners and took major steps to protect consumers from fraudulent foreclosures and financial predators. Cordray also served as the Ohio Treasurer, where he led the state’s banking, investment, debt, and financing activities; as Ohio’s first Solicitor General; and in the Ohio General Assembly.

Cordray majored in legal and political theory at Michigan State University’s James Madison College. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics while a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University in England. He then earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He clerked for Judge Robert Bork on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He has since argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was a professor of constitutional law for many years.

Cordray is married and is the father of twins who are college graduates in the Class of 2021.

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Assemblymember Mark Stone

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

In response to federal inaction and mounting student loan abuses, Assemblymember Mark Stone crafted a two-pronged approach to addressing this predatory behavior – a licensing scheme and consumer-facing protections. In 2016, he authored AB 2251 to create a program within the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to license and regulate student loan servicers. Three years later, he introduced AB 376 which established the Student Borrower Bill of Rights to ensure student borrowers are given reliable information, quality customer service, and meaningful access to repayment and forgiveness programs. Assemblymember Stone most recently authored AB 424 in 2021 to protect private student loan borrowers from unsubstantiated collections and lawsuits on illegitimate debts. His work continues to put California on the forefront of student loan protections.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director, NextGen Policy

Event: Opening and Keynote Speaker (Wednesday, November 17 at 9:30am PST)

Arnie Sowell is Executive Director of NextGen Policy (NGP), a non-profit organization that works to advance progressive policy solutions across a range of areas including: climate change, affordable housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, immigration, mental health, voting rights, food insecurity, and income inequality. Arnie leads the NGP team and manages their legislative, political, advocacy, and programmatic activities.

Before joining NextGen, Arnie spent over two decades in the California State Assembly, serving as Policy Director for five Assembly Speakers. Prior to that, he held various positions in state and local government including as Undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency during the Governor Davis Administration and as a Budget Manager in the San Francisco Mayor’s office. Arnie started his career in the Legislative Analyst Office.

He is an Oregon State alum, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Washington. Arnie is a proud father of three and a new grandfather. He is the son of a career military officer and has lived in numerous states and overseas.

2021 Guest Speakers

Bonnie Latreille

Bonnie Latreille

Student Loan Ombudsman, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Bonnie Latreille is the Student Loan Ombudsman for the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Prior to joining FSA, Bonnie served as Director of Research and Advocacy at the Student Borrower Protection Center, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the student debt crisis. Bonnie previously worked in the Office for Students and Young Consumers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she specialized in student loan servicing compliance and consumer complaint data. Bonnie led the Bureau’s work on servicing compliance under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and her work identifying consumer harm to borrowers pursuing PSLF led to Congress dedicating $700 million in 2018 to expand the program. Bonnie received a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Marlene Garcia

Marlene Garcia

Executive Director, California Student Aid Commission

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Marlene Garcia is the Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission where she oversees a budget of close to $3 billion and a team of 125. She has over 25 years’ experience working on education policy issues for a variety of government and higher education institutions. Ms. Garcia has been nationally recognized for her work and was featured as one of 11 “Higher Education’s New Generation of Thinkers” in 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is passionate about expanding educational opportunity by removing financial barriers to college success.

Suzanne Martindale

Suzanne Martindale

Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection, California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Suzanne Martindale is Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection at the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, where she is spearheading implementation of the new California Consumer Financial Protection Law included in Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020-2021 budget. She most recently served as Senior Policy Counsel and Western States Legislative Manager at Consumer Reports, where she worked for more than a decade on state and federal policy regarding banking and consumer credit. She is a Lecturer in Student Loan Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and was a Pro Bono Attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center’s Consumer Justice Clinic from 2015 to 2018. She has an active California Bar license and is a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco. She has a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, a Master of Arts degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Natalia Abrams

Natalia Abrams

President and Founder, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Natalia Abrams has been on the front lines of the fight for student loan debt reform for well over a decade. Long before others acknowledged student debt as a genuine American crisis, Natalia was raising awareness of the scale of the problem – and working with both borrowers and legislators on lasting, meaningful solutions. From the New York Times to Wall Street Journal to NPR and countless other outlets, Natalia has been cited as a subject matter expert on the immense injustice of the existing system for funding higher education. As president, Natalia continues to direct the SDCC’s overall strategy and fundraising programs – and represent SDCC in media and communications. A Los Angeles native, Natalia graduated from UCLA.

Ella Azoulay

Ella Azoulay

Program Associate, Generation Progress

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ella Azoulay is the program associate at Generation Progress, where she helps run the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign. Prior to joining GP, Ella organized for Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa, and for congressional and local campaigns in New York. Ella uses both traditional and digital organizing strategies to mobilize and empower young people.

Chuck Bell

Chuck Bell

Programs Director, Consumer Reports

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Chuck Bell is a financial policy advocate based in CR’s New York office. He works closely with CR’s advocacy and mobilization teams on a wide range of consumer policy issues, including financial services, privacy/tech, product safety, and food safety. Over the last several years, he has worked to help pass student loan borrower bill of rights laws in several states to improve oversight over student loan servicing practices.

 

Winston Berkman-Breen

Winston Berkman-Breen

Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Winston Berkman-Breen is the Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, where he leads the organizations state policy work. Prior to joining the SBPC, Winston was the Director of Consumer Advocacy and Student Loan Advocate at New York State’s financial regulator, the Department of Financial Services, where he advanced consumer protection policies and regulatory actions, with a focus on student loans and debt collection. Prior to joining DFS, Winston was a legal services attorney representing low-income clients in affirmative and defensive litigation related to debt collection, student loans, and foreclosure. He was a Justice Catalyst Fellow and Staff Attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group, and was a Fellow with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop is a leading expert on anti-racist policymaking and grassroots coalition building. His critical policy research agenda focuses on the racial-spatial inequities in life opportunities and Black student loan debt and credentialism. He utilizes qualitative, historical, and policy-oriented methods coupled with critical theory—often in collaboration with community coalitions and organizations. He holds an appointment as an assistant professor at Villanova University and is a co-founder of the Equity Research Cooperative, a nonprofit focused on radically transforming research, grantmaking, and freedom dreams.

Sabrina Calazans

Sabrina Calazans

Outreach Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Sabrina Calazans is the outreach coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center. She graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from Arcadia University and she is interested in bringing more awareness to the disproportionate impact of student loan debt on communities of color and women.

Lindsay Clark

Lindsay Clark

Director of External Affairs, Savi

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Lindsay is the Director of External Affairs at Savi and a fierce champion for the student loan borrower – having accumulated enormous student debt over the course of her undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale and Columbia, respectively. Having worked in advocacy and financial technology for nearly a decade, Lindsay brings a deep understanding of the urgency behind providing solutions for student loan borrowers. As Director of External Affairs, Lindsay built and continues to lead our front line efforts to assist America’s 46 million borrowers. She is also a contributor at The Nation.

Ian Coon

Ian Coon

Senior Communications Associate, Savi

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Ian is a Senior Communications Associate at Savi and brings extensive experience in communications as a leader in the K-12 education reform movement. Previously, Ian co-founded a student advocacy nonprofit in Iowa and served as the associate director at Student Voice, scaling social impact communications efforts nationwide. A student loan borrower and graduate of Wartburg College, Ian holds strong beliefs in integrated marketing communications tactics and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Cody Hounanian

Cody Hounanian

Executive Director, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Cody Hounanian began his work with Student Debt Crisis Center working on issues like consumer protection policies and student loan refinancing. In his previous role as program director, Cody took the lead in developing the SDCC’s strong digital presence, and he worked to significantly ramp up our online advocacy. Cody has been quoted as an expert on student debt in a wide variety of national and local media outlets. Today, as executive director, Cody oversees the budget and program management of SDCC and is in charge of day-to-day operations. Cody is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Data Analytics and Policy program; he has a degree in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara.

Kristi Johnston

Kristi Johnston

National Press Secretary, NextGen America

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Kristi Johnston is the National Press Secretary at NextGen America. Kristi began working at NextGen in 2018 after graduating college and became a Press Associate on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign during the 2020 election cycle. In her previous role, she oversaw statewide communications strategies as the NextGen Arizona Press Secretary. She has spent the last several years working on campaigns and fighting for progressive causes, notably during her term as President of the College Democrats at UC Santa Cruz. She lives in Oakland, California.

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Engagement Coordinator, Young Invincibles

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ruth Sosa Martinez serves as the Engagement Coordinator for Young Invincibles’ California office. In her role, she leads the organization’s organizing efforts across the state, facilitates leadership development programs and works to connect young adults to elected officials. As a first generation Latina from the Central Valley, Ruth is passionate about making legislative change that is impactful to the day-to-day lives of all Californians.

Kristin McGuire

Kristin McGuire

Executive Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Kristin McGuire is the Executive Director for Young Invincibles. Kristin assumes this role having most recently served as YI West Regional Director, where she has spent the last five years empowering young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. As a first-generation college student from a single-parent household – she is driven by a deep understanding of the needs of under-resourced communities and has helped shift power to young adults from these communities over the last decade. Kristin’s recent successes include shaping policies that will protect the financial health of young Californians as they enter adulthood such as the California Student Borrowers’ Bill of Rights 2019 (AB 376), the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act of 2019, and the College Student Hunger Relief Act 2016 (AB 1747). But her most prized accomplishment is not her own, it is her mother’s, who integrated her school at the age of seven. An active member of her community, Kristin is the first Black person elected to her local school board (November 2020). Kristin is the wife of a military veteran and mother to two daughters – a 14 year old aspiring chemical engineer and a 19 year old rising Sophomore at UCLA who studies neuroscience – dog mom to Blue, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the best sorority in the world.

Alex Niles

Alex Niles

Government Relations Chair, UC Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Alex Niles is a third year student at UC Santa Barbara, where he studies the History of Public Policy and Law. He currently serves as the Government Relations Chair of the UC Student Association and as the Chair of the UCSB Associated Students’ Lobby Corps, where he dedicates his time to advocating for improved affordability and accessibility in higher education. Alex also enjoys backpacking and is a part time home cook.

Mike Pierce

Mike Pierce

Executive Director, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Mike is Executive Director and co-founder of the Student Borrower Protection Center. He is an attorney, advocate, and former senior regulator who joined SBPC after more than a decade fighting for student loan borrowers’ rights on Capitol Hill and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Prior to becoming SBPC’s Executive Director, Mike served as the organization’s founding Policy Director and Managing Counsel for three years. Before he left government service to start the SBPC, for seven years, Mike was the CFPB’s lead subject-matter expert on higher education and consumer protection. He advised all aspects of the Bureau’s work related to student lending, servicing, debt collection, and oversight of for-profit colleges. Earlier in his career, Mike served as a policy advisor to Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03), where he assisted in the passage of legislation creating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and worked on the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Jasmine Prasad

Jasmine Prasad

Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Student Senate for California Community Colleges

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Jasmine Prasad is the Vice president of Legislative Affairs for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and a student at Folsom Lake College majoring in Political Science. She has engaged in many advocacy opportunities such as being a part of Youth and Government, volunteering for the California Senior Legislature, and Participating in a Q&A panel with general consulates as a model United Nations Secretariat.

Brendan Rooks

Brendan Rooks

Government Affairs Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Brendan is the Government Affairs Coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center, where he leads legislative outreach and engagement, performs policy analysis, works with state, local, and federal governments, and monitors legislative activity. He is also currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside, where he is double majoring in International Affairs and Public Policy. Brendan is also involved with AFSCME Local 3299 as an organizing intern, Young Invincibles as an advocate, and the Roosevelt Network as the Finance Director of his university’s chapter. In his free time he enjoys volunteering as a beekeeper.

Anthony Ruiz

Anthony Ruiz

Vice President of Finance, Cal State Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Anthony Ruiz serves as the Cal State Student Association’s Vice President of Finance and is a second year MBA student at Chico State. Anthony formerly served as Associated Students Director of Legislative Affairs and member of the Associated Students Board of Directors while pursuing his undergraduate degree in sociology and social science at Chico State. Anthony is a first generation student who is passionate about politics and higher education policy.

Samantha Seng

Samantha Seng

Legislative Manager & Policy Advisor, NextGen Policy

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Samantha covers K through 12th grade education, and higher education policy for NextGen California. The work includes advocating for policies and programs that promote access, equity, and student success at every stage of their educational career. Samantha previously worked for various Assembly Members in the California State Assembly on a diverse range of issues as a legislative aide. Samantha is a proud daughter of immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, and the first family member to hold a Master’s Degree – in Education from Lesley University. Samantha holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.

Abby Shafroth

Abby Shafroth

Attorney with the Student Borrower Assistance Project of the National Consumer Law Center (she/her)

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Abby Shafroth is an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center specializing in student loans and government debt collection, and is interim Director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, which engages in direct representation of low-income borrowers along with policy analysis and advocacy. Abby has represented the interests of student loan borrowers on federal and state committees, co-authored numerous reports and briefs on federal student loans, and is an author of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Law and Collection Actions treatises.

Mahmoud Zahriya

Mahmoud Zahriya

Western Regional Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Mahmoud Zahriya is based in Sacramento as the Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles. Mahmoud is responsible for leading YI’s California office which seeks to empower young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. In collaboration with YI’s national policy team, Mahmoud and his team work to organize and implement Young Invincibles’ statewide policy and government affairs work in California.

Bonnie Latreille

Bonnie Latreille

Student Loan Ombudsman, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Bonnie Latreille is the Student Loan Ombudsman for the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Prior to joining FSA, Bonnie served as Director of Research and Advocacy at the Student Borrower Protection Center, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the student debt crisis. Bonnie previously worked in the Office for Students and Young Consumers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she specialized in student loan servicing compliance and consumer complaint data. Bonnie led the Bureau’s work on servicing compliance under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and her work identifying consumer harm to borrowers pursuing PSLF led to Congress dedicating $700 million in 2018 to expand the program. Bonnie received a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Marlene Garcia

Marlene Garcia

Executive Director, California Student Aid Commission

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Marlene Garcia is the Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission where she oversees a budget of close to $3 billion and a team of 125. She has over 25 years’ experience working on education policy issues for a variety of government and higher education institutions. Ms. Garcia has been nationally recognized for her work and was featured as one of 11 “Higher Education’s New Generation of Thinkers” in 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is passionate about expanding educational opportunity by removing financial barriers to college success.

Suzanne Martindale

Suzanne Martindale

Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection, California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Suzanne Martindale is Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection at the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, where she is spearheading implementation of the new California Consumer Financial Protection Law included in Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020-2021 budget. She most recently served as Senior Policy Counsel and Western States Legislative Manager at Consumer Reports, where she worked for more than a decade on state and federal policy regarding banking and consumer credit. She is a Lecturer in Student Loan Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and was a Pro Bono Attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center’s Consumer Justice Clinic from 2015 to 2018. She has an active California Bar license and is a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco. She has a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, a Master of Arts degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Natalia Abrams

Natalia Abrams

President and Founder, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Natalia Abrams has been on the front lines of the fight for student loan debt reform for well over a decade. Long before others acknowledged student debt as a genuine American crisis, Natalia was raising awareness of the scale of the problem – and working with both borrowers and legislators on lasting, meaningful solutions. From the New York Times to Wall Street Journal to NPR and countless other outlets, Natalia has been cited as a subject matter expert on the immense injustice of the existing system for funding higher education. As president, Natalia continues to direct the SDCC’s overall strategy and fundraising programs – and represent SDCC in media and communications. A Los Angeles native, Natalia graduated from UCLA.

Ella Azoulay

Ella Azoulay

Program Associate, Generation Progress

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ella Azoulay is the program associate at Generation Progress, where she helps run the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign. Prior to joining GP, Ella organized for Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa, and for congressional and local campaigns in New York. Ella uses both traditional and digital organizing strategies to mobilize and empower young people.

Chuck Bell

Chuck Bell

Programs Director, Consumer Reports

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Chuck Bell is a financial policy advocate based in CR’s New York office. He works closely with CR’s advocacy and mobilization teams on a wide range of consumer policy issues, including financial services, privacy/tech, product safety, and food safety. Over the last several years, he has worked to help pass student loan borrower bill of rights laws in several states to improve oversight over student loan servicing practices.

 

Winston Berkman-Breen

Winston Berkman-Breen

Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Winston Berkman-Breen is the Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, where he leads the organizations state policy work. Prior to joining the SBPC, Winston was the Director of Consumer Advocacy and Student Loan Advocate at New York State’s financial regulator, the Department of Financial Services, where he advanced consumer protection policies and regulatory actions, with a focus on student loans and debt collection. Prior to joining DFS, Winston was a legal services attorney representing low-income clients in affirmative and defensive litigation related to debt collection, student loans, and foreclosure. He was a Justice Catalyst Fellow and Staff Attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group, and was a Fellow with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop is a leading expert on anti-racist policymaking and grassroots coalition building. His critical policy research agenda focuses on the racial-spatial inequities in life opportunities and Black student loan debt and credentialism. He utilizes qualitative, historical, and policy-oriented methods coupled with critical theory—often in collaboration with community coalitions and organizations. He holds an appointment as an assistant professor at Villanova University and is a co-founder of the Equity Research Cooperative, a nonprofit focused on radically transforming research, grantmaking, and freedom dreams.

Sabrina Calazans

Sabrina Calazans

Outreach Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Sabrina Calazans is the outreach coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center. She graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from Arcadia University and she is interested in bringing more awareness to the disproportionate impact of student loan debt on communities of color and women.

Lindsay Clark

Lindsay Clark

Director of External Affairs, Savi

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Lindsay is the Director of External Affairs at Savi and a fierce champion for the student loan borrower – having accumulated enormous student debt over the course of her undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale and Columbia, respectively. Having worked in advocacy and financial technology for nearly a decade, Lindsay brings a deep understanding of the urgency behind providing solutions for student loan borrowers. As Director of External Affairs, Lindsay built and continues to lead our front line efforts to assist America’s 46 million borrowers. She is also a contributor at The Nation.

Ian Coon

Ian Coon

Senior Communications Associate, Savi

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Ian is a Senior Communications Associate at Savi and brings extensive experience in communications as a leader in the K-12 education reform movement. Previously, Ian co-founded a student advocacy nonprofit in Iowa and served as the associate director at Student Voice, scaling social impact communications efforts nationwide. A student loan borrower and graduate of Wartburg College, Ian holds strong beliefs in integrated marketing communications tactics and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Cody Hounanian

Cody Hounanian

Executive Director, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Cody Hounanian began his work with Student Debt Crisis Center working on issues like consumer protection policies and student loan refinancing. In his previous role as program director, Cody took the lead in developing the SDCC’s strong digital presence, and he worked to significantly ramp up our online advocacy. Cody has been quoted as an expert on student debt in a wide variety of national and local media outlets. Today, as executive director, Cody oversees the budget and program management of SDCC and is in charge of day-to-day operations. Cody is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Data Analytics and Policy program; he has a degree in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara.

Kristi Johnston

Kristi Johnston

National Press Secretary, NextGen America

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Kristi Johnston is the National Press Secretary at NextGen America. Kristi began working at NextGen in 2018 after graduating college and became a Press Associate on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign during the 2020 election cycle. In her previous role, she oversaw statewide communications strategies as the NextGen Arizona Press Secretary. She has spent the last several years working on campaigns and fighting for progressive causes, notably during her term as President of the College Democrats at UC Santa Cruz. She lives in Oakland, California.

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Engagement Coordinator, Young Invincibles

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ruth Sosa Martinez serves as the Engagement Coordinator for Young Invincibles’ California office. In her role, she leads the organization’s organizing efforts across the state, facilitates leadership development programs and works to connect young adults to elected officials. As a first generation Latina from the Central Valley, Ruth is passionate about making legislative change that is impactful to the day-to-day lives of all Californians.

Kristin McGuire

Kristin McGuire

Executive Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Kristin McGuire is the Executive Director for Young Invincibles. Kristin assumes this role having most recently served as YI West Regional Director, where she has spent the last five years empowering young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. As a first-generation college student from a single-parent household – she is driven by a deep understanding of the needs of under-resourced communities and has helped shift power to young adults from these communities over the last decade. Kristin’s recent successes include shaping policies that will protect the financial health of young Californians as they enter adulthood such as the California Student Borrowers’ Bill of Rights 2019 (AB 376), the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act of 2019, and the College Student Hunger Relief Act 2016 (AB 1747). But her most prized accomplishment is not her own, it is her mother’s, who integrated her school at the age of seven. An active member of her community, Kristin is the first Black person elected to her local school board (November 2020). Kristin is the wife of a military veteran and mother to two daughters – a 14 year old aspiring chemical engineer and a 19 year old rising Sophomore at UCLA who studies neuroscience – dog mom to Blue, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the best sorority in the world.

Alex Niles

Alex Niles

Government Relations Chair, UC Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Alex Niles is a third year student at UC Santa Barbara, where he studies the History of Public Policy and Law. He currently serves as the Government Relations Chair of the UC Student Association and as the Chair of the UCSB Associated Students’ Lobby Corps, where he dedicates his time to advocating for improved affordability and accessibility in higher education. Alex also enjoys backpacking and is a part time home cook.

Mike Pierce

Mike Pierce

Executive Director, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Mike is Executive Director and co-founder of the Student Borrower Protection Center. He is an attorney, advocate, and former senior regulator who joined SBPC after more than a decade fighting for student loan borrowers’ rights on Capitol Hill and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Prior to becoming SBPC’s Executive Director, Mike served as the organization’s founding Policy Director and Managing Counsel for three years. Before he left government service to start the SBPC, for seven years, Mike was the CFPB’s lead subject-matter expert on higher education and consumer protection. He advised all aspects of the Bureau’s work related to student lending, servicing, debt collection, and oversight of for-profit colleges. Earlier in his career, Mike served as a policy advisor to Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03), where he assisted in the passage of legislation creating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and worked on the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Jasmine Prasad

Jasmine Prasad

Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Student Senate for California Community Colleges

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Jasmine Prasad is the Vice president of Legislative Affairs for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and a student at Folsom Lake College majoring in Political Science. She has engaged in many advocacy opportunities such as being a part of Youth and Government, volunteering for the California Senior Legislature, and Participating in a Q&A panel with general consulates as a model United Nations Secretariat.

Brendan Rooks

Brendan Rooks

Government Affairs Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Brendan is the Government Affairs Coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center, where he leads legislative outreach and engagement, performs policy analysis, works with state, local, and federal governments, and monitors legislative activity. He is also currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside, where he is double majoring in International Affairs and Public Policy. Brendan is also involved with AFSCME Local 3299 as an organizing intern, Young Invincibles as an advocate, and the Roosevelt Network as the Finance Director of his university’s chapter. In his free time he enjoys volunteering as a beekeeper.

Anthony Ruiz

Anthony Ruiz

Vice President of Finance, Cal State Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Anthony Ruiz serves as the Cal State Student Association’s Vice President of Finance and is a second year MBA student at Chico State. Anthony formerly served as Associated Students Director of Legislative Affairs and member of the Associated Students Board of Directors while pursuing his undergraduate degree in sociology and social science at Chico State. Anthony is a first generation student who is passionate about politics and higher education policy.

Samantha Seng

Samantha Seng

Legislative Manager & Policy Advisor, NextGen Policy

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Samantha covers K through 12th grade education, and higher education policy for NextGen California. The work includes advocating for policies and programs that promote access, equity, and student success at every stage of their educational career. Samantha previously worked for various Assembly Members in the California State Assembly on a diverse range of issues as a legislative aide. Samantha is a proud daughter of immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, and the first family member to hold a Master’s Degree – in Education from Lesley University. Samantha holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.

Abby Shafroth

Abby Shafroth

Attorney with the Student Borrower Assistance Project of the National Consumer Law Center (she/her)

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Abby Shafroth is an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center specializing in student loans and government debt collection, and is interim Director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, which engages in direct representation of low-income borrowers along with policy analysis and advocacy. Abby has represented the interests of student loan borrowers on federal and state committees, co-authored numerous reports and briefs on federal student loans, and is an author of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Law and Collection Actions treatises.

Mahmoud Zahriya

Mahmoud Zahriya

Western Regional Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Mahmoud Zahriya is based in Sacramento as the Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles. Mahmoud is responsible for leading YI’s California office which seeks to empower young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. In collaboration with YI’s national policy team, Mahmoud and his team work to organize and implement Young Invincibles’ statewide policy and government affairs work in California.

Bonnie Latreille

Bonnie Latreille

Student Loan Ombudsman, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Bonnie Latreille is the Student Loan Ombudsman for the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Prior to joining FSA, Bonnie served as Director of Research and Advocacy at the Student Borrower Protection Center, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the student debt crisis. Bonnie previously worked in the Office for Students and Young Consumers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she specialized in student loan servicing compliance and consumer complaint data. Bonnie led the Bureau’s work on servicing compliance under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and her work identifying consumer harm to borrowers pursuing PSLF led to Congress dedicating $700 million in 2018 to expand the program. Bonnie received a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Marlene Garcia

Marlene Garcia

Executive Director, California Student Aid Commission

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Marlene Garcia is the Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission where she oversees a budget of close to $3 billion and a team of 125. She has over 25 years’ experience working on education policy issues for a variety of government and higher education institutions. Ms. Garcia has been nationally recognized for her work and was featured as one of 11 “Higher Education’s New Generation of Thinkers” in 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is passionate about expanding educational opportunity by removing financial barriers to college success.

Suzanne Martindale

Suzanne Martindale

Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection, California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST)

Suzanne Martindale is Senior Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Financial Protection at the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, where she is spearheading implementation of the new California Consumer Financial Protection Law included in Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020-2021 budget. She most recently served as Senior Policy Counsel and Western States Legislative Manager at Consumer Reports, where she worked for more than a decade on state and federal policy regarding banking and consumer credit. She is a Lecturer in Student Loan Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and was a Pro Bono Attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center’s Consumer Justice Clinic from 2015 to 2018. She has an active California Bar license and is a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco. She has a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, a Master of Arts degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Natalia Abrams

Natalia Abrams

President and Founder, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Natalia Abrams has been on the front lines of the fight for student loan debt reform for well over a decade. Long before others acknowledged student debt as a genuine American crisis, Natalia was raising awareness of the scale of the problem – and working with both borrowers and legislators on lasting, meaningful solutions. From the New York Times to Wall Street Journal to NPR and countless other outlets, Natalia has been cited as a subject matter expert on the immense injustice of the existing system for funding higher education. As president, Natalia continues to direct the SDCC’s overall strategy and fundraising programs – and represent SDCC in media and communications. A Los Angeles native, Natalia graduated from UCLA.

Ella Azoulay

Ella Azoulay

Program Associate, Generation Progress

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ella Azoulay is the program associate at Generation Progress, where she helps run the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign. Prior to joining GP, Ella organized for Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa, and for congressional and local campaigns in New York. Ella uses both traditional and digital organizing strategies to mobilize and empower young people.

Chuck Bell

Chuck Bell

Programs Director, Consumer Reports

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Chuck Bell is a financial policy advocate based in CR’s New York office. He works closely with CR’s advocacy and mobilization teams on a wide range of consumer policy issues, including financial services, privacy/tech, product safety, and food safety. Over the last several years, he has worked to help pass student loan borrower bill of rights laws in several states to improve oversight over student loan servicing practices.

 

Winston Berkman-Breen

Winston Berkman-Breen

Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Winston Berkman-Breen is the Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, where he leads the organizations state policy work. Prior to joining the SBPC, Winston was the Director of Consumer Advocacy and Student Loan Advocate at New York State’s financial regulator, the Department of Financial Services, where he advanced consumer protection policies and regulatory actions, with a focus on student loans and debt collection. Prior to joining DFS, Winston was a legal services attorney representing low-income clients in affirmative and defensive litigation related to debt collection, student loans, and foreclosure. He was a Justice Catalyst Fellow and Staff Attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group, and was a Fellow with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop

Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Jalil Mustaffa Bishop is a leading expert on anti-racist policymaking and grassroots coalition building. His critical policy research agenda focuses on the racial-spatial inequities in life opportunities and Black student loan debt and credentialism. He utilizes qualitative, historical, and policy-oriented methods coupled with critical theory—often in collaboration with community coalitions and organizations. He holds an appointment as an assistant professor at Villanova University and is a co-founder of the Equity Research Cooperative, a nonprofit focused on radically transforming research, grantmaking, and freedom dreams.

Sabrina Calazans

Sabrina Calazans

Outreach Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Sabrina Calazans is the outreach coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center. She graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from Arcadia University and she is interested in bringing more awareness to the disproportionate impact of student loan debt on communities of color and women.

Lindsay Clark

Lindsay Clark

Director of External Affairs, Savi

Event: Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Lindsay is the Director of External Affairs at Savi and a fierce champion for the student loan borrower – having accumulated enormous student debt over the course of her undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale and Columbia, respectively. Having worked in advocacy and financial technology for nearly a decade, Lindsay brings a deep understanding of the urgency behind providing solutions for student loan borrowers. As Director of External Affairs, Lindsay built and continues to lead our front line efforts to assist America’s 46 million borrowers. She is also a contributor at The Nation.

Ian Coon

Ian Coon

Senior Communications Associate, Savi

Event: Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Ian is a Senior Communications Associate at Savi and brings extensive experience in communications as a leader in the K-12 education reform movement. Previously, Ian co-founded a student advocacy nonprofit in Iowa and served as the associate director at Student Voice, scaling social impact communications efforts nationwide. A student loan borrower and graduate of Wartburg College, Ian holds strong beliefs in integrated marketing communications tactics and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Cody Hounanian

Cody Hounanian

Executive Director, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Cody Hounanian began his work with Student Debt Crisis Center working on issues like consumer protection policies and student loan refinancing. In his previous role as program director, Cody took the lead in developing the SDCC’s strong digital presence, and he worked to significantly ramp up our online advocacy. Cody has been quoted as an expert on student debt in a wide variety of national and local media outlets. Today, as executive director, Cody oversees the budget and program management of SDCC and is in charge of day-to-day operations. Cody is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Data Analytics and Policy program; he has a degree in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara.

Kristi Johnston

Kristi Johnston

National Press Secretary, NextGen America

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Kristi Johnston is the National Press Secretary at NextGen America. Kristi began working at NextGen in 2018 after graduating college and became a Press Associate on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign during the 2020 election cycle. In her previous role, she oversaw statewide communications strategies as the NextGen Arizona Press Secretary. She has spent the last several years working on campaigns and fighting for progressive causes, notably during her term as President of the College Democrats at UC Santa Cruz. She lives in Oakland, California.

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Ruth Sosa Martinez

Engagement Coordinator, Young Invincibles

Event: Opening Speaker and Advocacy Workshop – The Fight Against Student Debt (Thursday, November 18 at 11:00am PST)

Ruth Sosa Martinez serves as the Engagement Coordinator for Young Invincibles’ California office. In her role, she leads the organization’s organizing efforts across the state, facilitates leadership development programs and works to connect young adults to elected officials. As a first generation Latina from the Central Valley, Ruth is passionate about making legislative change that is impactful to the day-to-day lives of all Californians.

Kristin McGuire

Kristin McGuire

Executive Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Kristin McGuire is the Executive Director for Young Invincibles. Kristin assumes this role having most recently served as YI West Regional Director, where she has spent the last five years empowering young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. As a first-generation college student from a single-parent household – she is driven by a deep understanding of the needs of under-resourced communities and has helped shift power to young adults from these communities over the last decade. Kristin’s recent successes include shaping policies that will protect the financial health of young Californians as they enter adulthood such as the California Student Borrowers’ Bill of Rights 2019 (AB 376), the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act of 2019, and the College Student Hunger Relief Act 2016 (AB 1747). But her most prized accomplishment is not her own, it is her mother’s, who integrated her school at the age of seven. An active member of her community, Kristin is the first Black person elected to her local school board (November 2020). Kristin is the wife of a military veteran and mother to two daughters – a 14 year old aspiring chemical engineer and a 19 year old rising Sophomore at UCLA who studies neuroscience – dog mom to Blue, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the best sorority in the world.

Alex Niles

Alex Niles

Government Relations Chair, UC Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Alex Niles is a third year student at UC Santa Barbara, where he studies the History of Public Policy and Law. He currently serves as the Government Relations Chair of the UC Student Association and as the Chair of the UCSB Associated Students’ Lobby Corps, where he dedicates his time to advocating for improved affordability and accessibility in higher education. Alex also enjoys backpacking and is a part time home cook.

Mike Pierce

Mike Pierce

Executive Director, Student Borrower Protection Center

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Mike is Executive Director and co-founder of the Student Borrower Protection Center. He is an attorney, advocate, and former senior regulator who joined SBPC after more than a decade fighting for student loan borrowers’ rights on Capitol Hill and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Prior to becoming SBPC’s Executive Director, Mike served as the organization’s founding Policy Director and Managing Counsel for three years. Before he left government service to start the SBPC, for seven years, Mike was the CFPB’s lead subject-matter expert on higher education and consumer protection. He advised all aspects of the Bureau’s work related to student lending, servicing, debt collection, and oversight of for-profit colleges. Earlier in his career, Mike served as a policy advisor to Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03), where he assisted in the passage of legislation creating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and worked on the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Jasmine Prasad

Jasmine Prasad

Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Student Senate for California Community Colleges

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Jasmine Prasad is the Vice president of Legislative Affairs for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and a student at Folsom Lake College majoring in Political Science. She has engaged in many advocacy opportunities such as being a part of Youth and Government, volunteering for the California Senior Legislature, and Participating in a Q&A panel with general consulates as a model United Nations Secretariat.

Brendan Rooks

Brendan Rooks

Government Affairs Coordinator, Student Debt Crisis Center

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Brendan is the Government Affairs Coordinator at Student Debt Crisis Center, where he leads legislative outreach and engagement, performs policy analysis, works with state, local, and federal governments, and monitors legislative activity. He is also currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside, where he is double majoring in International Affairs and Public Policy. Brendan is also involved with AFSCME Local 3299 as an organizing intern, Young Invincibles as an advocate, and the Roosevelt Network as the Finance Director of his university’s chapter. In his free time he enjoys volunteering as a beekeeper.

Anthony Ruiz

Anthony Ruiz

Vice President of Finance, Cal State Student Association

Event: The Future Costs of Higher Education Panel (Thursday, November 18 at 12:30pm PST)

Anthony Ruiz serves as the Cal State Student Association’s Vice President of Finance and is a second year MBA student at Chico State. Anthony formerly served as Associated Students Director of Legislative Affairs and member of the Associated Students Board of Directors while pursuing his undergraduate degree in sociology and social science at Chico State. Anthony is a first generation student who is passionate about politics and higher education policy.

Samantha Seng

Samantha Seng

Legislative Manager & Policy Advisor, NextGen Policy

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST) ; Student Debt Workshop (Thursday, November 18 at 1:30pm PST)

Samantha covers K through 12th grade education, and higher education policy for NextGen California. The work includes advocating for policies and programs that promote access, equity, and student success at every stage of their educational career. Samantha previously worked for various Assembly Members in the California State Assembly on a diverse range of issues as a legislative aide. Samantha is a proud daughter of immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, and the first family member to hold a Master’s Degree – in Education from Lesley University. Samantha holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.

Abby Shafroth

Abby Shafroth

Attorney with the Student Borrower Assistance Project of the National Consumer Law Center (she/her)

Event: Panel 2: State of Student Debt in America (Wednesday, November 17 at 11:00am PST)

Abby Shafroth is an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center specializing in student loans and government debt collection, and is interim Director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, which engages in direct representation of low-income borrowers along with policy analysis and advocacy. Abby has represented the interests of student loan borrowers on federal and state committees, co-authored numerous reports and briefs on federal student loans, and is an author of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Law and Collection Actions treatises.

Mahmoud Zahriya

Mahmoud Zahriya

Western Regional Director, Young Invincibles

Event: Panel 1: State of Student Debt in California (Wednesday, November 17 at 10:00am PST) ; Legislative Briefing and Workshop – What California Legislative Staff Need to Know About Student Loans (Wednesday, November 17 at 12:00pm PST)

Mahmoud Zahriya is based in Sacramento as the Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles. Mahmoud is responsible for leading YI’s California office which seeks to empower young adults to advocate for higher education, health care, and economic policies. In collaboration with YI’s national policy team, Mahmoud and his team work to organize and implement Young Invincibles’ statewide policy and government affairs work in California.

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