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A Win for Student Borrowers in Texas

YI advocated protecting student loan borrowers in default from losing their professional license, supporting a successful bipartisan initiative to ensure student loan borrowers such as teachers, barbers, and truck drivers stay in the workplace. With the passage of SB 37 in the 86th legislative session, Texans will no longer lose professional licensure due to student loan default. Kennedy Quintanilla, one of our Texas advocates, shares her experience on working on getting the bill to pass and the impact its made on her life. Check out more reflections from our young advocates on their work in the Texas legislative process.

Working hard with other passionate people for something that we have a shared passion for is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had the privilege to experience. Fighting for solutions on tough political issues can often result in disappointment but I’m proud to have worked on SB 37, a repeal of Texas’ licensure removal law. This bill, which began as an idea from a brainstorming session, was introduced in our statehouse and eventually made its way to the Governor’s desk where it was signed into law.  

Prior to the passage of SB 37, if an individual defaulted on their student loans in Texas they were at risk of having their professional license revoked. Taking away professional licenses from people who defaulted on their student loans perpetuates a cycle of debt that puts them in an even worse financial situation. For most of these individuals, they are already in a rough financial situation, which might make default more likely, and with their professional license taken away, they are unable to financially get their lives back on track. SB 37 addresses the issue by prohibiting the use of student loan default as a reason to refuse the renewal of a professional license and prevents the removal of a professional license for defaulting.

Working as a young advocate with Young Invincibles, I spoke with many young people that shared their stories with me of how they were negatively impacted by getting their professional licenses removed for defaulting on their student loans. One story stuck with me throughout this whole process. A man whose daughter had passed away while facing financial hardships had lost his CDL truck-driving license for defaulting on his loans. The man’s situation worsened as he and his family were brought into financial instability making them mourn the loss of their daughter without stable housing. Stories like these are all too common in Texas, but thankfully SB 37 will help families like his regain their financial stability by making sure hardworking individuals stay in the workforce. 

License revocation affects a plethora of professions including truck drivers, cosmetologists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, travel guides, and many more. In 2017, Texas had more than 4,200 professionals who were in danger of losing their licenses because of defaulting on student loans. Our national student loan debt continues to rise each year, right now sitting at more than $1.5 trillion. With more than one million people defaulting on their student loans every year, the bill will hopefully alleviate some of the stress associated with defaulting on student loans for Texans.

Changing the practice of licensure removal was a great endeavor that required members from both sides of the aisle to work together, such as Democrat Sen. Judith Zaffirini and Republican Rep. Matt Krause who authored SB 37 and authored HB 218, the companion bill, respectively. The movement towards this initiative included six bills total, with the above-mentioned bills being the only two that made it out of the chamber. I had the pleasure to meet with the offices of two co-sponsors of SB 37, Rep. Celia Israel and Rep. Briscoe Cain, about the issue. They are both very far from each other across the aisle with one being extremely conservative and one being very progressive. Yet, both offices agreed that the bill would help folks who are already in a fragile state no longer be financially harmed by the system. 

The opportunity to meet with my representatives, talk to them about prioritizing the needs of young people, and see something come to fruition has truly allowed me to grow as an advocate. In preparation for these meetings, I made sure to do my homework on the legislators to ensure they were compelled by my arguments. I compiled facts on each legislator into a one-pager for quick and easy reference to help me as I got ready to meet with them. I also grew as a leader through this experience since I had to work with other advocates to research legislators and also train them on how to present the information we found. I took charge of the process, which took my leadership skills to another level.  

Luckily, I did not go through this process alone. I had so many passionate and motivated young advocates working on these projects with me which made the experience absolutely unforgettable. My experience as a young advocate for Young Invincibles was my first real taste of advocacy and it was remarkable. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to change the world but never really knew how I would go about doing it. Through the Young Advocates program, I have learned how much policy impacts everyone and how I can help make a change in my community through it. I’m so proud of all the work we did on SB 37 and excited to see what the future holds for me as I continue to advocate with Young Invincibles. 

Kennedy Huerta Quintanilla is a second-year Political Communication major at the University of Texas at Austin. She is proud to serve as a Legislative Intern for Representative Todd Hunter from the Texas House District 32 as well as a Student Ambassador for the Moody College of Communication Student Advising Office.