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The Student Loan Lawyer: Joshua Cohen

June 06, 2013 05:33pm  

Cromwell, CT—Don't call Joshua Cohen a bankruptcy attorney.

“I don't do bankruptcy law,” he told isLaws.com in a recent interview.  “I am the student loan lawyer.”  After starting his own consumer law practice in 2008, Cohen leveraged his experience working in the financial aid office of Brandeis University to focus his practice exclusively on issues relating to student loan debts.

(More on  News at IsLAWS.com)

In a nation where today there is more student loan debt than credit card debt, Cohen says that his practice took off quickly.  “I got started in student loan law by calling a few bankruptcy attorneys I knew and asking if they had clients with student loan issues,” he recalls.  “I offered to help, as I was a start-up and had a low hourly rate.  I was flooded within a few months.  I then quickly realized that I had tons of FDCPA issues on my hands.”

FDCPA, or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, limits how debt collectors can approach consumers for the collection of debts.  It prohibits collectors from using harassing tactics, like repeated, frequent phone calls or threats of litigation that they do not intend to carry out.  When collectors violate provisions of the FDCPA, they can be liable for damages.  Cohen finds these violations and uses them to consumer’s benefit, helping worried borrowers to work out payment plans for their student loans and stop harassment from collectors.

Cohen says that one of the biggest laws fueling his practice today was BAPCPA, the bankruptcy reform law passed by Congress in 2005.  “Private student loans aren't dischargeable anymore,” he explains, meaning that students have no way to get a “fresh start” on these debts by discharging them in a bankruptcy case.  “I find a way to deal with them, and help bankruptcy attorneys do the same.”

Currently, students are only able to discharge their student loans if they can demonstrate what the courts call “undue hardship.”  However, according to Cohen, “the test [for undue hardship discharges] is old and doesn't work.”  Typically, people with overwhelming student debt have to prove that they have significant medical or other long-term issues in order for their debts to be discharged due to undue hardship.

Cohen believes that the student loan system is broken and needs reform.  “I think we need to allow student loans to be discharged again, as in pre-BAPCPA,” he says.  “Why are we protecting private banks?  They know how to do a risk analysis—do it right.  They argue they won't lend as much, which means many students won't be able to afford college.  Good.  Let the schools get some skin in the game.  Bring the prices down to something affordable, or erase the middle class—colleges need accountability.”

In Cohen's estimation, many people should be seeing student loan specialists who aren’t, yet.  “The student loan industry never ceases to amaze me,” he says, noting that violations of the FDCPA are rampant among some student loan debt collectors.  “I'll always be employed.”

In the five years that Cohen has worked as the Student Loan Lawyer, he says that he's learned a lot about the practice of law and about student loans.  “If anything, I've realized even more how important my work is—and that I've just scratched the surface.”

Joshua R. I. Cohen…THE Student Loan Lawyer for all of your student loan issues.

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