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The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report this week harshly criticizing the entire student loan servicing system, with a particularly scathing review of federal student loan servicing. The report was based on over 30,000 comments submitted by student loan borrowers to the CFPB over the past year or so.
The report highlights some of the biggest failures of the system:
- Servicing companies routinely provide misinformation, bad information, or conflicting information to student loan borrowers.
- Servicing companies fail to properly counsel borrowers on their options.
- When errors are made, either by the servicer or by the borrower, servicing companies make it extremely difficult to correct, often forcing borrowers to jump through unreasonable and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.
The CFPB report found that the conduct of student loan servicing companies actually contributes to borrower distress and can push people into delinquency or default, and harm their credit. Furthermore, widespread frustration with student loan servicing can cause borrowers to turn to third-party debt relief scammers for assistance, leading to even more problems.
Everyone who has student loans is likely reacting to this report with a collective “duh.” We’ve all dealt with the absurdly convoluted student loan system at one point or another, and we all have a horror story to tell, even me.
What the CFPB report does, however, is it summarizes these widespread practices in detail and frames them as identifiable problems, with associated recommended reforms. This could be the basis for “market-wide student loan servicing reforms to halt harmful practices and boost assistance for distressed borrowers,” according to Richard Cordray, CFPB director, in a recent interview with The Huffington Post. This could do a lot to stem the tide of borrowers who are slipping into default.
Let’s hope so. Because we all know this system is broken.