Well, 2017 has been quite an explosive year, hasn’t it? And there’s been a lot going on in the world of student loan law – so much, in fact, that it can be a bit overwhelming to keep everything straight. So as we wrap up this year, here’s an overview of what went down for student loan borrowers, and some hints of what’s to come in 2018.Read More
News outlets are reporting that the House GOP has drafted legislation that could reshape the entire federal student loan system.
The bill is called the “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act,” or the “PROSPER Act.” The full text of the proposed bill has not yet been released, but an outline of the proposal was released to the media. Here’s what we know (and what we don’t know):Read More
Late this week, the House GOP unveiled its much-anticipated tax reform bill. The bill makes a lot of reforms to the tax code for both individual and corporate taxpayers. There are some major changes proposed for student loan borrowers.
First, the bill eliminates the student loan interest deduction. Currently, individuals earning an income of up to $80,000 per year (or $160,000 for married couples filing jointly) can deduct up to $2,500 per year in interest paid on their student loans, although the benefit begins to get phased out once an individual hits $65,000 per year in income. There are over 44 million student loan borrowers in the United States, and an estimated 12 million of them claim this deduction. Read More
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that allows borrowers to have any remaining balance on their federal Direct student loans forgiven after 120 “qualifying payments” (typically under an income-driven repayment plan). Borrowers must work full-time for a public service employer to qualify. For hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of student loan borrowers, it is a critical program that allows people to work in traditionally low-paying sectors that often require advanced degrees.
The PSLF program has been in the news a lot lately, however, and not in a good way. There’s been talk about changing or eliminating the program. There’s been news about the U.S. Dept. of Education denying people access to the loan forgiveness benefit. And no one has been granted forgiveness yet under the program. There’s a lot of uncertainty, which is understandable given PSLF’s complexity and the constant stream of news stories.
So let’s take a moment and review where things are.Read More
Yesterday, I testified at the Massachusetts State House in support of the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” which would introduce new statewide protections for student loan borrowers in Massachusetts. Below is my testimony.
If you live in Massachusetts, contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the Student Loan Bill of Rights.
Dear Honorable Chairs of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure:
I am writing to you today in support of S129, the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” sponsored by Senator Eric Lesser.
By way of background, I am a solo-practicing attorney with a uniquely-focused practice devoted entirely to helping student loan borrowers. To my knowledge, I am the only such attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – and one of the only in the country – specializing in this area of law. I have a unique perspective on the student loan crisis, particularly as it impacts student loan borrowers here in our Commonwealth.Read More
It’s been a whirlwind week. Last week’s leaked budget documents from the Trump administration showed proposed cuts to critical student loan programs including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, as well as major changes to income-driven repayment plans. The proposals sparked panic; hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers have made major life decisions – selecting specific careers and specific repayment plans – in reliance on the continued existence of these programs. To have the rug pulled out from under them would be disruptive and unfair, and would likely be the basis of viable legal challenges.
After just a few days, we have some important updates on some of these reforms. Some good news, and some bad. Read on.Read More
President Trump’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of funding for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The program allows for borrowers who are repaying their Direct federal student loans under an income-driven repayment plan while working full time for a public service employer to have any remaining balance forgiven after 10 years of qualifying payments. The first wave of borrowers eligible for forgiveness under this program will be applying later this year.
While this is certainly a time to be extremely vigilant, there are two things to keep in mind before panicking:Read More
We all know student loan servicing is a mess, and it has been for a long time. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on private companies to handle student loan accounts, but these companies have been the subject of widespread complaints and major lawsuits due to misconduct and poor outcomes.
The Obama administration had begun to take steps to reign in bad student loan servicing conduct, but Betsy DeVos – the Secretary of the Dept. of Education appointed by Donald Trump – has begun to roll back these initiatives. Specifically, she rescinded Obama-era guidance that would take into account borrower outcomes and customer satisfaction when awarding federal servicing contracts to student loan companies. She also appeared to pull the plug on an attempt to simplify and centralize student loan management through a single web portal, which would have effectively allowed borrowers to bypass their student loan servicer.
It’s an uncertain and frustrating time for student loan borrowers. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from servicing errors and misconduct. While these steps are of course no guarantee that you’ll avoid problems managing your student loans, they may help.Read More
A bill has been filed in the Massachusetts State Legislature that would create a “Student Loan Bill of Rights.” This legislation has the potential to provide student loan borrowers here in Massachusetts with powerful new protections from student loan servicers. The bill is sponsored by Senator Eric Lesser and Rep. Natalie Higgins.
Here are some of the bill’s highlights:
- Student loan servicers would be required to register with the state and pay a licensing fee.
- Student loan servicers that are subject to oversight would be prohibited from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices common in the student loan industry, such as misapplying payments or supplying misinformation.
- Student loan borrowers would be provided with the right to file a lawsuit against student loan servicers who violate the bill of rights.
- The state would also establish an Ombudsman position to monitor student loan servicing and help student loan borrowers obtain out-of-court resolutions to their servicing issues.
This bill has the potential to give student loan borrowers important new tools to make student loan repayment fairer and more transparent. And with federal oversight of student loan servicing in question following the recent presidential election, state-level protections are going to become that much more important.
If you live in Massachusetts, call your State Senator and State Representative and ask them to support the Student Loan Bill of Rights (you’ll need to reference the Senate Docket Number, S.D. 1229). If you don’t know who your representatives are, click here to find out.
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