Legislation inspired by struggles endured by family of the late Rutgers student Christopher Bryski
WASHINGTON – As the House passed legislation that will retroactively lower interest rates on student loans, Congressmen Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-9) and Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) today reintroduced the Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, legislation that would bring greater transparency to the student loan process for students, their parents, and other loan co-signers.
The bill is named after Christopher Bryski, a New Jersey college student who suffered a traumatic brain injury during his third year at Rutgers and passed away after spending two years in a coma. Christopher’s family struggled to determine how they were going to pay back his loans and make legal, financial, and medical decisions on his behalf.
"It often takes an entire family to create the opportunity for a student to go to college. Therefore, it is only right that parents and anyone else who takes on financial obligations to educate a student completely understands the terms they are entering," said Rep. Pascrell, a co-chairman of the Congressional Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force. "Christopher Bryski's legacy reminds us that life can be unpredictable. This legislation bearing his name is intended to help give families one advantage to help guard against the unexpected. I look forward to working with Congressman Runyan in getting this important bill passed in the House as soon as possible."
“The Bryski family has done an incredible job of honoring the life of Christopher, and ensuring that his legacy is one that will help families in the future,” said Rep. Runyan. “I appreciate the opportunity to offer my help and support for this important legislation and commit to working in partnership with my New Jersey colleague Rep. Bill Pascrell to move it through the House of Representatives.”
“We hope Christopher’s Law will help families throughout the country by holding lending institutions accountable for their actions. Christopher’s Law makes it mandatory for lending institutions to inform families,” said Ryan Bryski, Christopher’s brother, on behalf of the Bryski Family. “It’s only fair that families know up front what their obligations are, and what to expect during catastrophic situations. This kind of information should not be buried in the fine print. We do not want other families to endure the pain and confusion we continue to endure seven years after Christopher's death. We are extremely grateful for the constant hard work and support from Rep. Pascrell, Rep. Runyan, and their staff."
The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act would ensure that parents and other co-signers are fully informed of their obligations to repay student loans, including in the event of the student’s death. While federal loans are typically discharged upon a borrower’s death, private loans often are not. The bill would require all private education lenders to clearly define the obligations of the cosigner. It would also require colleges to provide information about loan discharge rules to students and cosigners of a loan. This legislation originally passed the House of Representatives in September 2010.
New provisions in the Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act of 2013 require a student to designate an individual to act on behalf of the borrower in case of catastrophic injury or death for both private and federal loans. Additionally, the lender must adequately ensure that the borrower and any cosigners receive comprehensive information on the terms and conditions of the loan.
This year’s bill also adds a deadline of one year for the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to issue regulations to carry out the changes this legislation makes to the Truth in Lending Act.
On June 17, 2004, 23-year-old Christopher Bryski of Marlton was fatally injured in a recreational accident. He spent two years in a vegetative state before passing away in 2006. During that time, his family struggled to make financial decisions on his behalf, and was surprised to learn of their financial obligations. Upon his death, the U.S. Department of Education discharged Christopher’s student loans. However, Christopher’s father remained liable for the private student loans and continues to make payments on his behalf. The Bryski family has advocated for improved transparency during the student loan process.