Immediately, a top Treasury Department official challenged the Department of Education and its particular contractors — for example SallieMae, which usually had its servicing contract renewed despite allegations of mishandling borrowe accounts — over how they deal with borrowers struggling with student debt. Pointing to the 7 million borrowers in default on their federal student loans, Sarah Blossom Raskin, deputy treasury secretary, wondered why borrowers had defaulted, given the availability of generous repayment plans that link monthly payments to earnings. For example , a borrower with no earnings could pay nothing, yet still remain current on student loans.
Raskin made her remarks in the University of Maryland campus within Baltimore County, and did in order part of her first public speech since joining the Treasury Department earlier this year. According to HuffPost, her comments suggest she may be among federal policymakers outside the Education Department who view student loan defaults largely as a result of poor loan servicing, rather than a good outcome driven by deadbeat borrowers.
The speech also suggests that the Treasury Department may begin publicly pushing the Education Department to wash up how its loans are serviced. In an email earlier this month, Dorie Nolt, Education Department spokeswoman, said, “ Of the over 40 million borrowers with excellent student loan debt, the vast majority have not portrayed any concerns about servicers. ”
With student loans totaling more than $1. 2 trillion, Wa policymakers are growing increasingly concerned that student debt threatens in order to choke off U. S. financial growth as loan payments force households to delay home and auto purchases, saving for retirement and limit other forms of credit, investment and consumption.
How companies service student loans — or interact with borrowers, collect their own payments and counsel them around the best repayment plans for their financial constraints — has become a hot topic amongst policymakers and regulators looking to avoid a student debt-driven economic malaise.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has criticized student loan companies for the way they interact with borrowers. Sallie Mae, the nation’ s biggest student loan company, faces investigations simply by at least three federal agencies and a half-dozen state attorneys general.
Education Department data revealed on Tuesday showing a slight uptick in borrowers not making normal payments on their federal student loans underscored potential problems in student loan maintenance.
About 41 percent of borrowers who had been expected to end up being paying back their loans are possibly delaying payments or have defaulted since March 31. That compares along with 39 percent as of June thirty. The figures exclude borrowers nevertheless in school who have never made obligations and those just six months out of school.
Student advocates have said that loan servicers are more likely to place struggling borrowers into plans that simply postpone payments, known as deferment or forbearance, rather than work to get them into plans that cap their payments relative to their earnings, such as Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn. Education Department information show a recent increase in enrollment within income-linked plans, however.
Nearly 90 percent of excellent student loans, or $1. 1 trillion, are backed by the federal government. The Education Department pays a small group of financial institutions to collect payments on that debt, and prescribes rules on how the debt should be recouped.
Training Department representatives did not respond to the request for comment.
In her speech, Raskin said that the us government, as a lender, should be evaluating education loan servicers to make sure they know “ immediately” when a borrower is in problems and are “ ready to offer that borrower a repayment program which gives him or her the best chance of successfully paying back their loans. ”
“ All borrowers should be able to rely on a system in which the servicer, the college, and the government provide information and resources to help borrowers manage their own loans successfully, ” Raskin mentioned. “ This is critical to ensuring that taxpayers recoup their investment and that borrowers can make the most of their education without being sidetracked by the consequences associated with delinquency or default. ”
That approach contrasts using the current system, in which the Education Department largely uses surveys and limited data to grade servicer functionality.
“ We have the world-class higher education system that is the covet of people living on every region. Our system of financial aid and federal student lending should be world-class and world-famous as well, ” Raskin mentioned.
Raskin, the Treasury Department’ s second-ranking official, also subtly chided the federal government for its lack of data on its own vast portfolio associated with student loans.
Economists, policymakers and regulators at the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and CFPB have long complained about the lack of information on the government’ s student loan portfolio. While federal banking regulators create public detailed information on home mortgage delinquencies it is impossible for the public to determine the percentage of federal student loans which are delinquent.
The Education Department discloses the number of borrowers in different repayment plans and some default data, but little else.
Enhancing how student loans are serviced demands “ that we have sufficient data and information to assist troubled borrowers, ” Raskin said. “ If we may understand the patterns that lead to delinquency and default, we may be able to anticipate and even preempt such outcomes to the benefit of borrowers, taxpayers, and financial growth. ”
The lady added, “ We have an responsibility to work across agencies, with servicers, and with schools to inform and shield borrowers’ best interests. ”