Yesterday, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it filed a lawsuit against Navient, one of the country’s largest student loan servicers, for conduct that violates various consumer protection statutes. The CFPB accused Navient of failing student loan borrowers “at every stage of repayment.” This is a major development. Here’s what you need to know. Read More
Yesterday, Congress held a confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, who is the nominee to head the U.S. Dept. of Education under the incoming Trump administration. If confirmed, DeVos would oversee the entire federal student loan disbursement, servicing, and collections system, which currently totals over $1.3 trillion and involves over 40 million individual student loan borrowers.
How will DeVos handle the student loan system? Here’s what we learned from the hearing (spoiler alert – not much): Read More
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. For better of for worse, it’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. We’re all going to exercise more, eat better, and call our long-distance relatives more frequently, right? (Well, for at least a month or two).
But financial New Year’s resolutions can be just as valuable as the more “cliché” promises we are used to hearing in the beginning of January. And I encourage everyone to consider some student loan resolutions to help manage your student loan debt more effectively. Here’s my list of some student loan New Year’s resolutions that I hope you will consider.Read More
2016 has been a big year in student loan law. We saw the release of Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), a new income-driven repayment plan for federal student loans, although its rollout and implementation were a bit of a mess. We saw a continued federal crackdown on predatory for-profit schools which resulted in the collapse of ITT Technical Institute. The Obama administration issued final rules on student loan forgiveness and debt relief for students who were defrauded by their colleges and universities. And finally, Donald Trump was elected to be the next President, leading to a great deal of uncertainty about the direction of student loan programs.
There’s never a dull moment when it comes to student loan issues, and as the year comes to a close, there’s still a lot going on. Here are some highlights. Read More
The following is a guest article by Jon M. Luskin, a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) at Define Financial.
If you’re spending less money than you make, give yourself a pat on the back for being frugal! But, how are you going to handle that extra cash: pay off your student loan debt, or invest?
Why would anyone with a student loan balance invest in the stock market? Because you’re hoping that the investment return will be greater than the interest rate on your student loan.
Investment Return > Student Loan Interest Rate
Notice that the keyword is “hope.” Will your investment return actually be greater than your student loan interest rate? Maybe. It depends. On what? A few things. Read on to find out! Read More
There’s been a lot of uncertainty since the election regarding what the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress may have in mind for student loan borrowers. During the past few weeks, I’ve been carefully watching public statements, investigating proposed appointments, and speaking with other advocates and experts. While everything at this point is still speculation, I think we’re beginning to see some clues as to where student loan reform may be going in the next few years, and who may be most at risk from potential negative consequences.Read More
The ability to refinance student loans is a big topic right now. Currently, there are no options to refinance federal student loans at lower interest rates while remaining in the federal student aid system (which I believe is problematic). There are an increasing number of private student loan refinancing options available, but these programs are generally geared towards high-income borrowers and carry their own set of risks and concerns.
SoFi, one of the major new private student loan refinancing companies, recently announced a new refinancing program involving mortgages. Specifically, SoFi has partnered with Fannie Mae to offer a mortgage refinancing program that can also be used to refinance student loan debt. In other words, borrowers who own a home could potentially take out a new mortgage at a lower interest rate to pay off their current mortgage and their student loan debt, too.
This student loan-mortgage combo refinancing package has some clear benefits. First of all, because a mortgage is a “secured” debt (meaning the debt is backed by an asset – in this case, a home), there is less risk to the lender, and so they are willing to offer a lower interest rate. Furthermore, mortgage interest rates are at historic lows at the moment. So homeowners can take advantage of the current interest rate environment to lower their rates on both their mortgage debt and their student loan debt. Depending on the borrower, this could lead to substantial savings.
However, this type of refinancing product also carries some risk. First of all, if borrowers are refinancing federal student loans into any type of private student loan, they may forever lose out on the unique consumer protections offered by the federal student loan system such as income-driven repayment, profession-based loan forgiveness, and discharges upon death or disability. Even more problematic, however, is the fact that with this specific type of refinancing product, borrowers would be turning an “unsecured” debt (a student loan not backed by any asset) into a “secured” debt (a mortgage backed by the borrower’s home). While defaulting on federal and private student loans is no picnic, defaulting on a mortgage means the mortgage lender can foreclose on the home – meaning force a sale. Is the interest rate reduction worth that risk?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, but I expect these types of refinancing programs to grow in popularity as long as the housing market remains strong. Borrowers who may be in a position to refinance their student loans through these programs should fully understand the potential risks and rewards before entering into any contract.
It’s been two weeks since the election, and there’s still much uncertainty about what the consequences of the election will be for student loan borrowers. While Hillary Clinton had mapped out a series of student loan reform proposals, Donald Trump has been far less specific about how he plans to deal with the $1.4 trillion in outstanding student debt.
In this time of uncertainty, and in keeping with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I think it’s a good time to take stock of what we have and be grateful. If you follow this blog, you know that I frequently write about problems and deficiencies with the the student loan system. And for good reason – student loans are a mess, with inefficient servicing, damaging debt collection, and the potential for life-altering negative consequences for borrowers. There’s a lot to be angry about, and a lot that should change.
But, there are also good elements of the student loan system – programs and laws that keep people in good standing, allow them to repay their loans fairly, and protect them from abuses. As we press forward into this period of change and uncertainty, we may have to do some hard work to preserve what we have.Read More
It’s the political upset of the century, and this election is going to be studied by analysts and political scientists for years. But the reality is clear: Donald Trump has been elected the next President of the United States, and both houses of Congress will remain firmly in Republican control for the next two (and likely four) years. This is starkly different than what was expected by the political class just 48 hours ago – a Hillary Clinton win, with the Senate likely flipping to Democratic control.
A lot is being written right now about this election, and what it might mean for the country. I have seen very little, however, on what the election might mean for student loan borrowers. I’ve been quite clear that this election was going to be hugely consequential for student loan borrowers, regardless of who won. This is certainly still true today. And now we have to start thinking about what may be next for people with student loans.
Below are my candid thoughts on what I think student loan borrowers may be looking at over the next four years. I should be clear – while I believe my assessments below are consistent with the rhetoric and with the past actions of our next executive and legislative leaders, absolutely nothing is concrete at this time. There is a lot we just don’t know – and can’t know – at this early juncture. With that caveat, read on. Read More
As you may recall, thousands of borrowers began petitioning the federal government to forgive their federal student loans following the collapse of the for-profit college chain, Corinthian Colleges. Students argued that they should not be held responsible for student loans issued by a predatory company that took advantage of people and actively misled them. The students requested student loan relief and forgiveness under a little-known contractual and regulatory clause called “Defense to Repayment.” Since then, ITT Technical Institute has also collapsed, and many ITT graduates are requesting similar forms of relief.
The Dept. of Education had no formalized procedure for addressing Defense to Repayment, and so it began a long bureaucratic process to implement new rules and standards so that officials can determine who may be entitled to relief. After months of work, the Dept. of Education finally issued its new rules. Here are the highlights:Read More