By Alexandra Loyo
On December 6, 2021, Celina Damian began working as the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation’s (DFPI) first Student Loan Ombudsperson. According to the Department’s December 2021 monthly bulletin, Ms. Damian previously worked with the Department of Social Services-Community Child Care Division and the Department of Industrial Relations- Labor Commissioner’s Office.
The student loan ombudsperson was created by AB 376 (Stone) (Chapter 154, Statutes of 2020), which required DFPI’s Commissioner to designate a Student Loan Ombudsman and hire new staff as needed to implement by the new provision by January 1, 2022. [26:1 CRLR 222–23] Currently, DFPI’s website allows visitors to submit complaints about licensees in general, but the student loan ombudsperson focuses on complaints about student loans.
Per the bill, the student loan ombudsperson will receive and review complaints and will refer complaints to the appropriate office within DFPI if outside the student loan purview. If complaints concern servicers who are not subject to licensing under the Student Loan Servicing Act, those complaints must be referred to the Department of Justice. (See Civil Code section 1788.104 (f)).
Pursuant to section 1788.104 of the Civil Code, the ombudsperson must submit a report to the “appropriate committees of the legislature having jurisdiction over higher education and financial institutions” by January 1, 2023, and then annually thereafter. This report must include information on “the types of complaints received regarding student loan borrowing, student loan repayment and servicing, and how these complaints are resolved.” Lastly, it should provide any data or analysis about other outstanding student loan issues (Civil Code section 1788.104 (g) (6)).
Per DFPI’s statement about the position, they indicate that the Student Loan Ombudsperson will also be involved with “help[ing] inform student borrowers of their rights through education and outreach.”