August 5, 2019
By Zack Friedman, Forbes
An educator thought she was on track to receive student loan forgiveness.
She made the payments. She thought she did everything right.
Then, she was told years later that she didn’t qualify.
Here’s what you need to know – and how you can avoid her fate.
New Lawsuit: Student Loan Forgiveness
As first reported by NPR, Debbie Baker, a Director Education at a non-profit organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma, expected that her $76,000 of student loan debt would be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a federal program through the U.S. Department of Education that forgives federal student loans for individuals who work in public service.
According to Baker, her student loan servicer – the company responsible for collecting and managing her student loan payments – allegedly told her for nine years that she met all the requirements to receive public service loan forgiveness. As such, Baker thought she would have all her federal student loan forgiven after meeting the program’s requirements, which she believed she met. However, after making her usual monthly payments under an income-driven repayment program, the U.S. Department of Education said she did not qualify for student loan forgiveness. You can imagine Baker’s reaction.
Now, Baker is a plaintiff in a new lawsuit filed by the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teacher’s unions, against the U.S. Department of Education, which is led by Secretary Betsy DeVos. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that:
- the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is “grossly mismanaged” and
- the program, as it’s currently administered, violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
- the U.S. Department of Education is aware that student loan servicers make misrepresentations to borrowers, which results in borrowers getting rejected for student loan forgiveness and suffering financial and other harm.
Was Baker given the wrong information from her student loan servicer? Was it Baker’s responsibility to understand all the requirements of the program? Is the program administered properly? What is the proper role of student loan servicers – advisors or student loan payment collectors? Many of these issues may be addressed as a result of this lawsuit.
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August 1, 2019
By Elissa Nadworny, NPR
Most days, 25-year-old Chavonne can push her student loan debt to the back of her mind.
Between short-term office jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, she drives for Uber. But once in awhile, a debt collector will get hold of her cellphone number — the one she keeps changing to avoid them — and it all comes back fresh. “I’ll be like, ‘Oh no!’ ” she says. “It’s a sad reminder that I owe somebody money!”
In April, she got another reminder when the government seized her tax refund.
All this for a degree she never finished.
Back in high school, she recalls, her teachers and friends pushed her to go to college. And so, without too much thought, Chavonne enrolled at the University of Mississippi and borrowed about $20,000 to pay for it.
Far away from home and in a challenging environment, she struggled — and after three semesters, she’d had enough. Her college days are five years behind her, but the debt she took on is not.
Today, rent, car payments, gas and food are higher up on her list of priorities. And so she’s in default, not paying on her loans.
The one thing that could help Chavonne earn more money, of course, is earning a degree. But because she’s in default, she doesn’t have access to federal student aid that could help her go back and finish. It’s a vicious cycle for Chavonne and millions of other students who leave college with debt and without a degree.
From mid-2014 to mid-2016, 3.9 million undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out, according to an analysis of federal data by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization.
The default rate among borrowers who didn’t complete their degree is three times as high as the rate for borrowers who did earn a diploma. When these students stop taking classes, they don’t get the wage bump that graduates get that could help them pay back their loans.
The perception is, work hard and pay what you owe, says Tiffany Jones, who leads higher education policy at the Education Trust, “but it’s not manageable even if you’re working.”
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July 26, 2019
By Collin Binkley, ABC News
Tens of thousands of federal student loan borrowers may be getting their monthly payments lowered by lying about their income and family size, yet the U.S. Education Department is doing little to catch them, according to a report released Thursday by a federal watchdog agency.
Among the most extreme cases reported by the Government Accountability Office are two separate borrowers who claimed to have 93 relatives in their households, along with 3,300 cases in which borrowers said they had no income even though federal data suggest they made $100,000 a year or more. All were approved for lower loan payments.
Investigators were reviewing the Education Department’s oversight of its popular income-driven repayment plans, which allow borrowers to pay lower monthly rates based on their incomes and family sizes. After 25 years of payments, all remaining debt is wiped clean.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said her agency will conduct comprehensive review of the repayment plans and will refer cases of fraud to the Justice Department for prosecution. She placed blame on previous administrations, saying the problems are proof that “many of the policy ideas previously pursued were poorly implemented.”
“Misrepresenting income or family size is wrong, and we must have a system in place to ensure that dishonest people do not get away with it,” DeVos said. “We didn’t create that problem, but rest assured we will fix it.”
The federal watchdog agency says it identified 95,100 cases in which borrowers were approved as having no income even though it appears they were earning money. Using wage data from the Department of Health and Human Services, investigators found that borrowers in a third of those cases may actually have been making $45,000 a year or more, including some who topped $100,000.
They concluded that the department “does not have procedures to verify borrower reports of zero income, nor, for the most part, procedures to verify borrower reports of family size.” Borrowers applying for the repayment plans can check a box indicating they have no income, and the department generally takes them at their word with no further documentation needed, the investigation found.
If approved, borrowers with no income typically are not required to make monthly payments.
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July 23, 2019
By Annie Nova
Elisha Bokman has been out of school for eight years. Still, her student loan balance is half a million dollars.
Today, for her doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine and master’s in acupuncture from Bastyr University, she owes $499,322.69.
She and her husband struggled to buy a house because of her debt. Eventually, the financial stress led them to a divorce. “He felt like he couldn’t live his life or do the things he wanted to do,” Bokman, 38, said. She wanted to open her own medical practice, but she said her student debt prevents her from getting a business loan.
“It really effects the remainder of your life,” Bokman said. “There’s no out.”
Around 178,000 graduate students owed more than $100,000 in the 2015-2016 academic year, up from 51,000 in 2003-2004, according to Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of SavingForCollege.com. In the first quarter of 2019, over 6% of all student loan borrowers owed more than $100,000, up from 5.4% in 2017.
Recently, Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed forgiving student debt. Warren’s plan would reduce people’s tabs by up to $50,000, whereas Sanders’ would erase it all.
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July 18, 2019
Paying with paper instead of plastic helped Kristy Epperson eliminate $20,000 in student loan and car loan debt in just one year.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Wright State University in 2017, Epperson owed about $16,000 in student loans from multiple borrowers with interest rates of between 3.6% and 6.8%. She also had roughly $4,000 left on her car loan, at an interest rate of 4.2%.
Even as Epperson began slowly chipping away at that debt, she managed to achieve another financial goal: homeownership. She was able to buy a place in Dayton, Ohio, with only 5% as a down payment. Becoming a homeowner forced her to take a hard look at her expenses and reevaluate her spending habits — which made her more determined to wipe out her student loan and auto debts.
“If something happened, if I lost my job, I’d have no way to pay my bills,” Epperson tells Grow. “I needed a better long-term plan.”
In addition to getting a second job as a substitute teacher, which brought in an extra $100 to $300 a month, Epperson created an expense spreadsheet and began tracking her purchases to help her pay down debt faster. She used her Instagram page, @DebtFreeAtTwentyThree, to share her setbacks, strategies, and accomplishments.
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July 15, 2019
By Andrew Kreighbaum
For Inside Higher Ed
In a bid to boost the number of students receiving financial support for college, Texas will soon become the second state to require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before graduating.
A handful of states have looked at making FAFSA completion mandatory for graduating high school students. Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, Texas will provide a serious test case for the policy after big successes in Louisiana, which enacted the requirement last year.
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Completing the form is a leading indicator of college enrollment. And there’s ample evidence that more financial aid is associated with outcomes like college completion. Actually achieving big gains in FAFSA completion, though, requires significant investment and outreach by schools and state officials.
During the past academic year, Louisiana saw FAFSA completions by high school students climb by more than 25 percent. College access groups say high school seniors leave millions of aid dollars on the table each year by not completing the form — often because it’s too difficult or they don’t believe they’ll qualify for aid.
“As the forerunner of this kind of policy, the early successes that Louisiana has seen with mandatory FAFSA has to be encouraging for other states,” said Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at the National College Access Network. “We shouldn’t assume Texas will see the same effects Louisiana did. But given the scale of the state, even a modest effect could make a big splash on the FAFSA completion cycle.”
If Texas has 25 percent of the growth Louisiana saw in FAFSA completions, that would mean an additional 12,700 students submit the application, DeBaun said.
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July 9, 2019
By Brittany De Lea
For Fox News
Exorbitant college Opens a New Window. costs are a significant problem for Americans, but new research shows prospective college students are unaware of how the financial aid Opens a New Window. process works.
A new study from ACT, which surveyed about 1,200 last year, found that many students “lack the most up-to-date … debt-related information” needed to make enrollment and financial aid decisions.
That’s particularly troubling at a time when outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1.5 trillion, second only to mortgage debt.
Meanwhile, tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 school year averaged $35,830 at four-year private, nonprofit institutions, according to data from The College Board. At public four-year in-state institutions, the average was $10,230 – and $26,290 at public, four-year out-of-state colleges.
The average borrower has nearly $40,000 in student loan debt.
Here’s a look at what most college students surveyed did not know about the financing process.
- An “overwhelming majority” didn’t know that the U.S. government subsidizes a borrower by paying interest on existing loans while the student is still in college.
- A majority of respondents did not know about loan repayment options, which allows students to repay loans based on their earnings after college.
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July 2, 2019
By Christy Bieber
For The Motley Fool
Owing money on student loans can feel like a major financial burden. After all, you have to send money to lenders each month and tons of debt shows up on your credit report.
While you may be tempted to get rid of your student debt ASAP by making extra payments and throwing as much cash at it as you can, this may not actually be the best financial decision. In fact, there are a few key reasons why paying off your student loans early might be a bad idea indeed. Here are four of them.
Image source: Getty Images.
1. Federal student debt comes with borrower protections you can’t get with other debt.
With most types of debt, lenders don’t really care if you’re facing financial hardship — you have to pay back what you owe on schedule. And you can’t just change your payment plan to reduce your payment so it matches your income, nor can you expect to get some of your debt forgiven if you do work that serves the public.
If you have federal student loan debt, on the other hand, there are unmatched borrower protections available to you. Depending on your situation, these borrower protections include:
Eligibility to get loans forgiven if you work in public service and make 120 on-time payments
The option to put loans into forbearance or deferment, and pause payments if you go back to school, are unemployed, serve in the military, join the Peace Corps, or meet other qualifying requirements
The ability to change repayment plans and pick a plan that caps payments at a percentage of income
The government may even subsidize interest on some of your loans during periods when payments are deferred.
Putting extra money toward paying down loans with all these borrower protections rarely makes sense. After all, if you could pay a small percentage of your income for 10 years and get the rest of your loans forgiven because you work for the government or a nonprofit, why pay off your loans early?
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June 28, 2019
By Julia La Roche
For Yahoo Finance
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon says student lending in the U.S. has been “a disgrace” and it’s “hurting America.”
“Is there an issue with student debt? There is, but you’ve got to stop the creation of bad debt,” Dimon told Yahoo Finance’s Andy Serwer in an exclusive interview at the unveiling of JPMorgan’s new flagship bank branch in Midtown Manhattan.
Dimon added that the government has “irresponsibly” lent more than $1 trillion since taking over in 2010.
“And now they want to forgive it,” he said.
Student loan forgiveness has become a focal point of the 2020 election, with Democratic contenders rolling out plans. This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled a sweeping cancellation plan that proposed taxing financial transactions.
“I think they should look at all parts of student lending, fix the broken parts, and then forgive those people need forgiveness, and then help people get into school, and then make sure the schools are responsible in getting the kids out,” Dimon said. “And what we’ve done is a disgrace, and it’s hurting America.”
He pointed out that a tax on financial transactions would be paid by investors.
“How they go about taxing, I’ll leave that to the politicians to figure that out,” he said.
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June 26, 2017
By Annie Nova
ABRA BELKE WAS IN LAW SCHOOL when she came across the Givling app, which calls itself “the world’s most incredible trivia game.” It promised winners payments toward their student debt.
“I’m a trivia buff,” Belke, 37, said.
However, she quickly realized it isn’t knowledge on a variety of topics that makes a player competitive on Givling. It’s money.
The app’s most-coveted $50,000 payout is awarded every seven to 10 days to players who reach first place in the game’s queue, which currently has more than 450,000 people, according to the company. To climb in that ranking, players need to accumulate queue points. That can be done by watching ads on the app, buying Givling merchandise or coins and using its paid sponsors, which include Uber Eats and eyewear maker Warby Parker.
Belke did it all. She rose up in the queue and hovered in the top few spots.
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June 20, 2019
By Jillian Berman
For the past few years, the government has been taking pains to collect on Tamara Blanchette’s student loans — garnishing some of the money she receives through her tax refund.
But it’s debt the government shouldn’t be collecting on in the first place, a new lawsuit alleges.
The suit, filed on behalf of Blanchette and similarly situated borrowers, alleges that Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education are collecting on debt that isn’t legally enforceable.
That’s because the Department knows that Blanchette and other students who enrolled in the criminal-justice program at the Minnesota School of Business, a now defunct for-profit college chain, were defrauded by the school when they signed up for the program, according to court documents.
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June 18, 2019
By Victoria Yuen
Center for American Progress
In fall 2017, the U.S. Department of Education released shocking findings about the long-term outcomes of student borrowers of color, particularly those who are black or African American. The data showed that the average black or African American borrower who entered college in the 2003-04 academic year had made no progress paying down their debt by 2015; in fact, they owed more than they originally borrowed. Even worse, nearly half of black or African American student borrowers had defaulted on their loans within the 12-year time period. These findings revealed a repayment crisis for black borrowers and raised serious questions about how the American higher education system serves all communities of color.
But the data have not yet led to any major plans in Congress to improve the outcomes of student borrowers of color. Just last month, for example, front-page headlines trumpeted a wealthy financier’s pledge to pay the student loan debt of an entire graduating class at historically black Morehouse College, demonstrating anew how much student debt is still weighing down African American borrowers—and why these students need systemic solutions.
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June 13, 2019
By: Andrew Kreighbaum
Inside Higher Ed
Senator Elizabeth Warren and other congressional Democrats delivered a warning on Tuesday about the potential dangers of income-share agreements, an alternative form of college financing increasingly popular with some critics of student loans. The lawmakers’ primary target was the Trump administration — which has expressed interest in experimenting with the agreements — but the shot across the bow also aimed at colleges operating their own ISA plans.
Income-share agreements offer students financial support up front and in exchange require them to repay a portion of their income for a set number of years. They first caught on at coding boot camps and similar programs that don’t receive federal student aid. But a handful of four-year colleges have begun offering their own ISA plans and, last month, the Trump administration said it planned to pursue a federal experiment to offer income-share agreements to students.
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June 11, 2019
By Dartunorro Clark
When Michael Sorrell became president of Paul Quinn College 12 years ago, he assessed the dire situation his school was in and made a bold choice: No more football.
“I mean, we’re in Texas. We’re an HBCU in Texas,” Sorrell said. “I got a little flak for that, OK?”
But to him, eliminating the program was the only way the historically black college in Dallas, which was founded in 1872 by a group of preachers from the African Methodist Episcopal Church to educate freed slaves and their children, could get back on track.
Football had cost the school roughly $600,000 to $1 million a year, he said, and scholarships went mainly to the players. Meanwhile, other students struggled, faculty and staff members were leaving, and buildings had fallen into disrepair.
“We were roughly 18 months to 24 months away from closing. We had financial problems. We had academic problems. We had morale problems, and it was the prototypical scenario for an institution that had been struggling for a long time and the end of the road was coming,” he told NBC News in a phone interview.
The challenges Paul Quinn College faced are not unique, experts said, even if its solution was one of a kind.
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June 7, 2019
— CNBC’s Annie Nova contributed to this report.
Chegg has a new plan to help its employees deal with their student loans.
And its CEO wants other companies to follow Chegg’s lead.
The student-connected learning platform announced a new program Thursday that will give its entry- through manager-level workers up to $5,000 a year, if they have been with the company at least two years. Director- or vice president-level employees can get up to $3,000 annually to help pay down their student loan debt.
“We are the beneficiaries of those people who have gotten an education — doesn’t matter if it is four year or two year or even if they completed it,” he added. “If they borrowed money and they are creating value for us, we want to help them.”
Student loan debt has hit record levels, with borrowers owing a total of $1.5 trillion. About 7 in 10 college graduates have education debt.
“We are taking our most vulnerable, least financially stable and we’re creating a burden on them that is unsustainable.”
Many also are unable to find ways to pay their bills. More than 1 million borrowers go into default each year. By 2023, its projected that 40% of borrowers may default on their student loans.
Chegg’s latest benefit is in addition to the $1,000 cash that its employees with student debt already receive each year. To pay for the program, called Equity for Education, Chegg created an equity pool from its existing stock.
“We’ve got a mess and it’s probably the biggest economic crisis facing this country. And we don’t deal enough with it,” Rosensweig said.
The Santa Clara, California-based company certainly isn’t the only business helping workers with some sort of student loan debt assistance.
Last year, Fidelity began to offer companies a way to contribute to their employees’ education debt with its Student Debt Employer Contribution program. It now has more than 65 companies that are offering, or in the process of offering, the benefit.
“A growing number of companies are increasingly aware that helping their employees take on the issue of student debt can help improve their overall financial wellness, which can in turn have a positive impact from a business perspective in a host of ways,” said Asha Srikantiah, head of Fidelity’s Student Debt Employer Contribution.
In fact, Fidelity has already seen an improvement in attracting and keeping top talent since it started offering the program to its own employees in 2016.
“For eligible Fidelity employees from 2016-2018, we’ve seen an approximate 75% reduction in turnover in the first year of program participation,” Srikantiah said. “And, according to a recent internal survey, it’s among the top two reasons people decided to join Fidelity.”
Still, the companies that offer this type of benefit remain the minority. About 4% did so in 2018, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Chegg’s CEO said his company thought long and hard about how to come up with a program that other companies can copy.
“We wanted to see if we could set an example and create a dialogue,” Rosensweig said.
He’s also hoping the government and colleges take notice of Chegg’s plan and do their part to help with the crisis.
“We are taking our most vulnerable, least financially stable and we’re creating a burden on them that is unsustainable,” Rosensweig said.
June 5, 2019
June 3, 2019
May 30, 2019
By Lara Takenaga Written for the New York Times
Morehouse College’s 2019 graduates don’t have to worry about crushing student debt, since the billionaire investor Robert F. Smith pledged last week to pay it all off. Neither do graduates of colleges in countries that offer affordable tuition and generous stipends.
As young adults wrestle with student debt in the United States, where it has reached $1.5 trillion, many recent graduates in some countries are debt free.
When we asked people around the world what they paid for their higher education and how they financed it, we received nearly 800 responses from more than 40 countries.
Below is a selection of the responses, which show how government policies can shape the personal and professional choices that young adults make as they begin their careers. The responses have been edited and condensed.