Showing posts with label Steve Rhode. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steve Rhode. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Scary Report From the Federal Reserve Bank: More Than Half of a Recent Cohort of Student-Loan Borrowers Did Not Reduce Their Debt by One Penny Over Five Years

Steve Rhode commented recently on a Federal Reserve Bank report published last July. As Mr. Rhode pointed out, the Feds reported that home ownership among young people declined by 8 percent over an 8-year period (2007 to 2015);  and the Feds concluded that a substantial reason for this decline is rising levels of student-loan debt.

The Fed report also observed that more young Americans are living with their parents than in previous years. In 2004, about one third of 23-25-year-olds lived with their parents. In 2015, 45 percent of people in this age bracket were living with mom and dad--a big increase.

These are alarming statistics, but the Fed's report also included information that is even scarier. More than half of student-loan borrowers in the 2009 cohort of borrowers had not paid down their student loans by even one penny five years after beginning repayment.

According to the Fed report, 59 percent of the 2009 cohort who owed $5,000 or less had not reduced their debt by even a dollar by 2014.  Well over half of people with very modest levels of student debt were delinquent on their loans, in default, or had failed to reduce their original loan balance by even a fractional amount.

Among people who owed between $50,000 and $100,000, 57 percent had not cut their student-loan debt by even a penny over five years. Among people owing $100,000 or more, 54 percent had made no progress on their loans during that time period.

The Fed report was commenting on a single cohort: people who took out student loans in 2009. But the repayment rates for more recent cohorts must be at least as bad. The Department of Education has been encouraging distressed borrowers to enter 20- and 25-year repayment plans, which lowers monthly payments. But in almost every case, the lower payments are not large enough to cover accruing interest, so most of the 6 million people in long-term, income-drive repayment plans are seeing their loan balances grow larger with each passing month.

And here's another scary tidbit of information. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2016 that half the people in income-driven repayment plans have been kicked out because they aren't abiding by the plans' eligibility rules.

In short, a perfect storm is brewing on the nation's economic horizon. Student loans are forcing more and more young people to postpone buying a house and to live with their parents.  Millions of people are making no progress at all toward paying off their student loans.

We can quantify some of the harm caused by the student-loan crisis, but other harms are difficult to measure. How many people have given up trying to get ahead because their student-debt grows larger with each passing month? How many have become cynical, despondent, or angry? How many of those masked antifa anarchists have student loans?

Steve Rhode put his finger on the only solution to the student-loan catastrophe. "Unless we tackle the growing problem of excessive student loan debt and allow those with unmanageable student loan debt to a fresh start in bankruptcy,"Mr. Rhode wrote, "the economic future of the days ahead is going to be less than it could have been."

Exactly. The only path out of this economic quagmire is through the federal bankruptcy courts.

The student-loan crisis is brewing into a perfect storm.

References


Zachary Bleemer, et al. Echoes of Rising Tuition in Students' Borrowing, Educational Attainment, and Homeownership in Post-Recession America. Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Report No. 820, July 2017.

Steve Rhode. Student Loan Debt Hurts Economy, Consumers, and Retirement Savings. Personal Finance Syndication Network, September 207.

US. Government Accounting Office. Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Improve Its Income-Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accounting Office, November, 2016.



Student Loan Debt Hurts Economy, Consumers, and Retirement Savings, essay by Steve Rhode


When you live in a society like ours that is dependent on consumers to consumer goods and services, a reduction in the ability for growing sections of society to do their job and purchase stuff is going to lead to slower growth. That’s not good.

When growth slows there is less of a need for workers, jobs are cut, wages go flat, and life becomes tougher for many.

Historically, people accumulated wealth through homeownership and savings. When reaching the age of retirement the home could be sold and the equity created could be withdrawn. With less access to this type of wealth accumulation and the inability to save for retirement due to growing student loan debt, tragedy is on the horizon.

Student loan debt is hurting an entire generation of consumers who are setup for financial failure at this point.

The easy access to student loans has led to a growing for-profit private student loan industry that since 2009 has been drawing in many through loans and co-signing. Private student loans exploded with the advent of the for-profit schools. As an example, read Navient Knew Loans Were Garbage When They Saddled Students With Them. Yet the current Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos seems resistant to crack down on protections from these schools.

Federal government student loans have been a blessing for many to obtain funds to attend higher education but they have been a curse as well. Schools who were qualified to receive federal funds looked at that easy money as a way to make an easy sale of a student into a seat regardless of the ability of the student to benefit from the loan and school.

Data published by the Federal Reserve Bank said, ” findings are consistent with American youth having accommodated tuition shocks not by forgoing schooling, but instead by amassing more debt.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York goes on to say, “Further analysis demonstrates that the tuition hike and student debt increase, despite leaving higher educational attainment unchanged, can explain between 11 and 35 percent of the observed approximate eight percentage-point decline in homeownership for 28-to-30-year-olds over 2007-15 for these same nine cohorts. The results suggest that states that increase college costs for current student cohorts can expect to see a response not through a decline in workforce skills, but instead through weaker spending and wealth accumulation among young consumers in the years to come.”

At the same time as homeownership has been declining, kids are living with their parents at an increasing rate.


As a society nothing good is going to come from lower amounts of wealth accumulation, and weaker spending.

Unless we tackle the growing problem of excessive student loan debt and allow those with unmanageable student loan debt to have access to a fresh start in bankruptcy, the economic future of the days ahead is going to be less than it could have been.

Steve Rhode


This article appeared on the Personal Finance Syndication Network web site and also on The Get Out of Debt Guy site. Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Terrific essay by Steve Rhodes: Is Betsy DeVos Nuckin Futs With Break From Student Loan Debtor Protections?

This terrific essay by Steve Rhode first appeared on Consumer Debt Guy blog site on September 6, 2017.
***
By Steve Rhode on September 6, 2017
   
The Consumerist is reporting the Department of Education has terminated its cooperation with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in dealing with student loan servicer problems.
“DeVos accuses the Bureau of not living up to its end of agreements established in 2011 and 2013, by doing too much to hold loan servicers accountable.”
“DeVos suggests that actions taken by the CFPB to rein in shoddy student loan servicers and collectors only confuses borrowers.
“The Department takes exception to the CFPB unilaterally expanding its oversight role to include the Department’s contracted federal student loan servicers,” DeVos wrote. “The Department has full oversight responsibility for federal student loans.”
However, the Department’s ability to root out fraud was thrown into question last week, when the agency appointed former for-profit college executive Julian Schmoke to run the Department’s enforcement division.
While Schmoke currently works as a high-ranking director at a community college in Georgia, he spent several years working for DeVry University, a college that has been repeatedly accused of fraud by both federal and state authorities.”
“The claim that the CFPB ‘unilaterally’ expanded its oversight role over servicers and collectors of federal student loans is unfounded,” Persus Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Project, said in a statement.
“Education is now trying to stop the CFPB from handling loan-related complaints, but Education’s failures are what led Congress to give the CFPB authority to help students,” Yu said. “DeVos is prioritizing the interests of predatory for-profit schools, debt collectors, and troubled student loan services over the interests of student loan borrowers.”

This recent action and the fact the Department of Education has not approved Borrower Defense claims leads me to wonder where is any proof the Department of Education gives a damn about student loan debtors.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

National Collegiate Student Loan Trust's student loans may be uncollectible against California co-signers: Sweet!

National Collegiate Student Loan Trust (NCSL)has been in the news lately. The New York Times recently broke a story about NCSL's efforts to collect on the defaulted student loans it holds. According to the Times, NCSL holds $12 billion in private student loans, and more than 40 percent of those loans ($5 billion) is in default.

Squadrons of NCSL attorneys have fanned out across the United States to sue student-loan defaulters, but they have been running into trouble. In case after case, judges have thrown NCSL's collection lawsuits out of court because NCSL can't produce the paperwork to show that it owns the debt.

And now, in California,  NCSL faces another obstacle to its debt-collection efforts. An obscure  California statute may make it impossible for NCSL to collect against co-signers on private student loans taken out in the Golden State.

Section 1799.91 of the California Civil Code requires lenders to provide loan co-signers with a specific written notice that warns them of the risk they take when they co-sign a loan. The warning states:
You are being asked to guarantee this debt. Think carefully before you do. If the borrower doesn't pay the debt, you will have to. Be sure you can afford to pay if you have to, and that you want to accept this responsibility.

You may have to pay the full amount of the debt if the borrower does not pay. You may also have to pay late fees or collection costs, which increases this amount.
 The creditor can collect this debt from you without first trying to collect from the borrower. The creditor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against the borrower, such as suing you, garnishing your wages, etc. If this debt is ever in default, that fact may become part of your credit record.
Importantly, California law requires co-signers to acknowledge receipt of the statutory warning by signing their names below the cautionary message.
National Collegiate Student Loan Trust requires most of its student borrowers to obtain co-signers on their loans; and reportedly, most NCSL loans do not contain the California statutory warning. The combination of missing documents and the California co-signer statute may make it virtually impossible for NCSL to collect on defaulted student loans in California. Moreover, when NCSL borrowers in California find out that their student loans may be uncollectible, it seems inevitable that more of them will default.

Of course no one should encourage a solvent debtor to welsh on a lawful debt. People who took out private loans held by NCSL should pay them back if they have the ability to do so. But the banks made it virtually impossible for destitute private student-loan borrowers to discharge their private college loans in bankruptcy when they lobbied Congress to pass the so-called Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. Now, at least, hard pressed student-loan defaulters have some defenses if they get sued by NCSL--particularly in California.

I am grateful to Steve Rhode for alerting me to this important development. Mr. Rhode wrote on this issue in the Get Out of Debt Guy blog site.  I'm also grateful to California attorney Christine Kingston for calling Steve's attention to the California co-signer statute and its significance for student-loan debtors.

 References

Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away. New York Times, July 17, 2017.

 Steve Rhode. California Student Loan Co-Signer Statute Helps to Kill Student Loan Debt. Get Out of Debt Guy, July 25, 2017.











Thursday, July 20, 2017

Building a Better America Budget A Laugh for Student Loans: Great Essay By Steve Rhode

The House Budget Committee has just rolled out a first pass at a new federal budget titled Building a Better America.

People dealing with student loans had better start thinking quickly and clearly if their political ideology is more important than the future of student loan debtors.
Here are a couple of choice sections.
“The Federal Government holds most student loan debt; as of the first quarter of 2017, its portfolio was $1.29 trillion, up from roughly $516 billion in fiscal year 2007. As Federal lending consumes an ever-larger share of the student loan market, it crowds out private and other lenders that may have better products to meet borrowers’ needs.”
It would appear the argument is the government wants to get out of the student loan market and drive more people to private student loans which don’t have any of the payment options, forgiveness programs, or helpful options federal loans have.
“Account for the True Costs of Student Loans. By statute, the government’s accounting procedures for assessing the costs of student loan programs do not incorporate market risk. For example, borrowers may have trouble finding a job and repaying loans in an economic downturn. To measure student loan program costs, the budget recommends using fair value accounting, which does assume such market risk.”
While the budget may recommend fair value accounting, the Department of Education is busy trying to gut regulations protecting students from underperforming schools which lead to failed educations and problem debt. The administration can’t have it both ways.
“In areas such as health care, welfare, environmental regulation, education, workforce development, and transportation, we put federal spending on a budget and empower the states, which are best suited to address the individual needs of their citizens and communities.”
I get the philosophy of returning more responsibility to the states but won’t this just create an inequity in the ability of individuals to plan for education when there may be a patchwork of education initiatives by state instead of one federal regulation when it comes to student loan and education issues?
“Simplify and Streamline Higher Education Programs and Financing to Protect Students and Taxpayers. The current Federal aid system is complicated and time-consuming for students and parents trying to make higher education financing decisions. In addition to Federal grant aid, six loans, nine loan repayment plans, eight loan forgiveness programs, and 32 options for loan deferment and forbearance exist. Each program has different eligibility criteria and terms. The budget envisions a simplified, transparent, and fiscally sustainable aid system. Principles for reform include more transparency for loans and repayment plans, removing perverse incentives to over-borrow, consolidating the array of programs, and protecting taxpayers.”
While it is possible that some changes could be made in the loan options, forgiveness programs, and repayment options, the key question here in a budget that is poised to trim costs is what will be cut and eliminated? The administration has already indicated they would like to like to change income driven repayment programs to make them shorter but have higher monthly payments. The Trump administration also would like to make wholesale changes or eliminate forgiveness programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you think the changes proposed in this budget will help to make American education great again? Post your comments below.

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This essay by Steve Rhode first appeared in  Get Out of Debt Guy on July 18, 2017. To learn more about Steve Rhode, click here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Half a millon bucks in student loans to become a pharmacist: Does that make any sense?

Earlier this week, I read a letter posted on Steve Rhode's web site: Get Out of Debt Guy and distributed on the Personal Finance Syndication Network.  An anonymous writer asked Mr. Rhode how to handle $500,000 in student loans that he or she borrowed to become a pharmacist.  Rhodes' advice was spot on, and I won't comment further about how this individual should manage all that debt.

My purpose here is to ask the simple and obvious question: How could anyone be permitted to accumulate a half million dollars in student loans to obtain a pharmacy degree?

As I said, the writer posted anonymously, so I have no way of knowing whether the person is male or female.  I'll just refer to this debtor as Pete.

As Pete mentioned in his query to Steve Rhode, he obtained a GED when he was 35 years old, about ten years ago. He obtained a BS in Neuroscience, another BS in biochemistry, and a doctor of pharmacy degree, which he recently completed. So I'm guessing Pete is about 45 years old, and he's embarking on a new career as a pharmacist.

Will Pete earn enough money as a pharmacist to pay off $500,000 in student loans? No, he won't.  We don't know the interest rate on his loans, which are both federal and private; but let's assume all his loans are accruing interest at 6 percent a year. That's $30,000 a year just to pay accruing interest on the debt.

What are Pete's options? Perhaps he can enroll in a 20-year income-base repayment plant, whereby his loan payments are based on his income. If he obtains a job paying $60,000 a year, which seems reasonable, his payments will be less than $400 a month. But of course, a payment that low won't begin to cover accruing interest on Pete's loans.

Pete might get a public service job that will allow him to make income-based payments for 10 years with the balance forgiven if he makes 120 consecutive payments.  Again, his monthly payments probably won't even cover accruing interest.

Bottom line is this: Pete, who is in his mid-40s, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever paying back $500,000 in student loans.

We can blame Pete for borrowing so much money or for obtaining two bachelor's degrees instead of one. Perhaps we can criticize him for making poor choices when choosing where to study. Maybe he could have borrowed less money had he attended less expensive colleges.

But that would be pointless. The parties who bear the blame for Pete's unmanageable debt load are the U.S. government and the banks, which loaned Pete way too much money.

Pete's situation is atypical, I'll grant you, but it is far more common than many people believe. Not long ago I blogged on a Hofstra law graduate who owes $900,000 in student loans--pretty damn near a million bucks!

The student loan crisis is not small beer. Less than half of the nation's student borrowers in repayment are paying down the principle of their loans. The problem is as obvious as a tsunami barreling down on a beach full of sunning vacationers.

Why can't we put some limit on the amount of money students can borrow? The amount of interest that can accrue? The amount of penalties and fees that can get added to borrowers' debt when they default?

In fact there are lots of things we could do to limit the harm caused by the student loan crisis. But nobody is talking about fixes. The college presidents, whether they are Ivy League college leaders or the CEO of Bobby Joe's College of Auto Mechanics, are saying nothing about the student loan mess. Every school, college, and university participating in the federal student loan program--more than 4,000 institutions--is dependent on regular infusions of student-loan dollars to keep the doors open.

Someday, it will become apparent that a high percentage of the nation's accumulated student-loan debt--30 percent, 40 percent, perhaps 50 percent--is not going to be paid back; and this house of cards will collapse.

But until that day comes, our politicians, academics and the national media will continue focusing on what they think is the most important topic of the day--President Trump's alleged communications with the Russians. And like summer vacationers lolling on the beach, a lot of pundits, intellectuals and journalists are going to be caught unawares as the student-loan tsunami flows over America's colleges and universities and destroys a good many of them--beginning with the small liberal arts colleges.

References

Steve Rhode, How Do I Handle My $500K of Student Loans to Become a Pharmacist? Personal Finance Syndication Network. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Department of Education Punts on Borrower Defense to Repayment Rules. Essay by Steve Rhode



I’m still waiting to be pleasantly surprised by the Trump Department of Education (ED) under Secretary DeVos. It has not happened yet.

From the recent actions to remove critical information from consumer notices to wanting to get a single loan servicer to handle all federal loans, the current incarnation of ED seems to be moving in a direction that provides less support and help for debtors.

On October 2016, the then ED announced new regulations to go into force on July 1, 2017. “The U.S. Department of Education today announced final regulations to protect student borrowers against misleading and predatory practices by postsecondary institutions and clarify a process for loan forgiveness in cases of institutional misconduct. These final regulations further cement the Obama Administration’s strong record and steadfast commitment to protecting student loan borrowers, deterring harmful practices by institutions, safeguarding taxpayer dollars and holding institutions accountable for their actions.” – Source

The Betsy DeVos ED is delaying the implementation of the Borrower Defense to Repayment rules. The ED announced today “Postsecondary institutions of all types have raised concerns about the BDR regulations since they were published on Nov. 1, 2016. Colleges and universities are especially concerned about the excessively broad definitions of substantial misrepresentation and breach of contract, the lack of meaningful due process protections for institutions and “financial triggers” under the new rules.” – Source

So the current ED is going to start over again and says, “The Department plans to publish its Notice of Intent to Conduct Negotiated Rulemaking on BDR and GE in the Federal Register on June 16, 2017. The Department will conduct public hearings on BDR and GE on July 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C. and July 12, 2017, in Dallas, Texas.” Goodness knows how long this new process if going to take and what opportunities student loan debtors will have to actually have their loans discharged due to misrepresentation by colleges and schools who received federal student loans.
For example, the ED previously said, “Many of these claims are from borrowers who attended programs that the Department found had been publicized with misleading job placement rates.” – Source

What do you think, should schools who misrepresented the success of their programs or actual employment rates to induce students to enroll, get a free pass and eliminated from the new rules? Let me know what you think by posting your comment below.
Even under the old administration the Borrower Defense to Repayment processing was less than optimal. There are students that have been waiting years for a conclusion to their claims and the next changes will only serve to slow down the entire process of assisting harmed student loan debtors.

As an example, ED previously said they had ” received a total of approximately 82,000 claims.” And while a previous report on the status of the program said 16,000 had been processed and approved, the current ED press release says, “Nearly 16,000 borrower defense claims are currently being processed by the Department, and, as I have said all along, promises made to students under the current rule will be promises kept,” said Secretary DeVos. So where are the rest of the claims?

Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt Guy – TwitterG+Facebook
This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Another Attorney General Jumps on Department of Education: Essay by Steve Rhode

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined to voices of others from around the country who are disappointed the Department of Education has decided to delay the July 1, 2017 regulations that would have helped to protect students with federal student loans from fraudulent schools and colleges. See this.

Stein said, “Education is one of the best reasons I can think of to borrow money. But unfortunately, there are some in our world who take advantage of those who are vulnerable – and that includes student borrowers. As North Carolina’s Attorney General, protecting people, including students is my top priority.”

“That is why I find this news deeply troubling. The rules, which were to take effect on July 1, would protect student borrowers – delaying them is misguided and irresponsible.”

“These delayed rules were hard-fought and sound consumer protection measures born out of the problems that other attorneys general and I have seen plague student borrowers time and time again.”

The delayed protections include: 

  • Prohibiting schools from forcing students to pursue complaints in arbitration rather than in court; 
  • Prohibiting schools from requiring students to waive participation in class action lawsuits; and 
  • Providing automatic relief and group relief for defrauded federal student loan borrowers in certain circumstances, including following legal actions by state attorneys general. 
Delaying the rules is a win for for-profit schools that provide a poor result and a loss for student loan debtors who have their futures financially damaged.

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook


This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

If Trump Will Let CFPB Survive Their Work Will Protect Small Business Loans and Student Loans--essay by Steve Rhode

I can’t imagine a measure of the the amount of effort that has been invested into making sure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is wiped off the face of the earth.

Big business and companies wanting consumers to have less power in the financial world are not excited about the CFPB that has been fighting hard to protect consumers from scams and schemes to rip them off.

In the coming years, if the CFPB survives, they are planning on targeting mortgage loan servicing, student loan servicing, and small business lending to make sure consumers are not getting to get screwed by these entities.

Some people want government out of our lives at nearly all costs. But for all those who politically want the CFPB to go away there is one simple issue that should change your mind. Let’s be honest. big business has more money to fight back against consumers and people just do have the resources to make much of a difference when they get screwed over by their financial company.

Sure, there have been some hit and miss victories by the lone consumer but for the most part, the deep pockets win.

Take private student loans for example. Consumers could discharge a lot of private student loan debt in bankruptcy or invalidate it. But people don’t have the resources to wage these battles and fight back against the lenders. So guess what, lives are ruined.

The CFPB represents at least one entity that works hard to fight for consumers. It creates leverage against deceptive and abusive financial practices that take advantage of consumers. But in this atmosphere of America First – Consumers Last, the Trump Administration wants the CFPB to go away. According to USA Today, “the Department of Justice argued in an amicus brief that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the watchdog created after the financial crisis during the Obama administration, is unconstitutional.” Even the federal government wants consumer protections to vanish.

Wanting to make the CFPB go away from defending consumers does not make the underlying problems go away or increase the defense of people just like you when you get scammed and ripped off.

The CFPB has been fighting back to protect consumers by filing suit against Navient for not providing advice to help consumers. Navients response is they don’t have to provide good advice, just collect on loans. And Navient even knew they were peddling loans that were not affordable when they pushed them on students.

So let’s let the CFPB fight back to protect people with student loan issues and small business loans. The only thing you have to lose is a better financial future and more protections for those you love.
Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.
This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


******

I am in total agreement with Mr. Rhode regarding the value of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The the Trump administration should  support the CFPB its mission, including the protection of student borrowers from unscrupulous for-profit college and ruthless student-loan debt collectors.

Richard Fossey

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I’m Screwing Myself Out of Retirement With My Wells Fargo Private Student Loans: Letter to Steve Rhode, The Get Out of Debt Guy

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode, the Get Out of Debt Guy, received a letter from an individual who is swamped by private student loans taken out with Wells Fargo. The letter and Steve Rhode's response are well worth reading. This post originally appeared on Mr. Rhode's web site, The Get Out of Debt Guy. It was also posted on the Personal Finance Syndication Network.





*****

Question:

Dear Steve,

I took out both federal and private student loans to pay for college, and was approved by Wells Fargo for more than I can pay back in reasonable increments each month with my current salary (roughly $565/month).

The federal loan payments I have each month are quite manageable, but the private loan payments through Wells Fargo are at a much higher interest rate, and also make up the bulk of my loan balance, currently at over $47k with interest rates hovering around 8%.

I attempted to consolidate the Wells Fargo loans to lower my monthly payment and hopefully reduce the interest rate as well, but do not have access to a co-signer and my debt-to-income ratio is too high (mainly because of my student loans), so I haven’t had the option to consolidate.

I make a decent salary at approximately $41k per year and hope to see an increase in the next year or so, but with living expenses at a bare minimum I am still living paycheck-to-paycheck in order to do the responsible thing and follow through on my loan payments.
Although I try to be as financially responsible as I can, I am now in my early thirties and am unable to put any money towards savings for retirement or emergencies. I have heard of graduates abandoning their private loan payments, and I am starting to feel that may be my only option if I want to save for my future.

In fact, I read your article on the Huffington Post about this very topic, but am so scared of the repercussions that I just continue to make my payments and regret my willingness to sign my life away to loans. I’m curious to find out if you think the risk would be worth the reward? What would you recommend to a person in my situation? Thanks so much in advance for the help!

Paige

Answer:

Dear Paige,

I can completely empathize with your situation and plight. As you’ve painfully learned, just because a lender will give you a loan it does not mean you can afford it.

Your worry about the future and the inability to save for retirement is a logical concern. Each day you can’t stash away money now is a bit hit on your retirement later.

As an example. If you invested $300 a month starting now and didn’t retire for 40 years you’d have about $1,897,223 in retirement. That doesn’t even include the additional benefit of employer matching or tax benefits.

So the real question now is how much pain you are willing to deal with in the short run to deal with the private student loans versus how much you will throw away by not doing something.
I think you might have read my article Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan. In that article the discussion is about the pain you will have to face when you default on your student loans and the options it gives you.

Look, I’m not suggesting the defaulting is either easy or doesn’t have consequences. It’s a frightening strategy that is not for the ill advised or faint of heart. If you did decide to investigate this path I would strongly urge you to talk to a competent debt coach like Damon Day to evaluate your entire situation and provide a plan based on your specific situation and goals. You need someone you can bounce these ideas off of and have regular conversations.
However, the idea of a strategic default of your private student loans is not entirely without merit. It does carry risks and will damage your credit from the defaulted payments.

The best strategy would be if Wells Fargo worked with you to create a repayment plan that allowed you to meet your obligations and begin to build an emergency savings account and save for retirement.

Alternatively, if you won the lottery and could pay off your student loans at once, that would be a lucky option as well.

Given that both a reasonable Wells Fargo payment and lottery win are not likely then you have to think carefully about the advice I’ve given you here.

Sometimes in the face of no good solution you just have to choose from the least objectionable and stick to it.

Steve Rhode

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Department of Education Fumbles the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Best Option for Student borrowers With Six-Figure Debt

A few years ago, law professor Paul Campos wrote an advice book for people thinking about going to law school. If you borrow a lot of money to go to a second- or third-tier law school and graduate in the bottom half of your class, Campos warned, you probably won't make enough money to pay back your loans.

In such event, Campos advised, your only viable option is to get a job in the public sector and enroll in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). If you go that route, you will make monthly payments on your student loans for ten years based on a percentage of your income. When you've made 120 payments, the balance of your loan debt will be forgiven.

Campos's advice is good for anyone who is buried by student loans. If you racked up $100,000 or more in student loans and can't find a good job in the private sector, the PSLF program may be your only viable option. It is the financial equivalent of the last train out of Paris in the movie Casa Blanca. If Rick doesn't get on that train before the Nazis arrive, he's doomed.

The Department of Education Fumbles the PSLF Program: Is Betsy DeVos Out of Her Element?

Congress created the PSLF program in 2007, and the Department of Education has been promoting it ever since. DOE has instructed  PSLF participants to send their Employment Certification Forms (ECF) to FedLoan Servicing, DOE's approved PSLF processor, on an annual basis to verify they are in fact employed by a public service organization. More than half a million people are enrolled in the PSLF program, confident that their indebtedness will be cancelled after 10 years of public service employment..

But now it seems DOE may be reneging on its PSLF obligations. The American Bar Association sued DOE for not living up to its PSLF commitments, and DOE recently answered that law suit. In essence, DOE denied it had any obligation to honor FedLoan Servicing's decision to certify public service employment.

This is shocking. As Steve Rhode said in his blog about this development, "People who have worked ten years in jobs assuming their loans would be forgiven are potentially going to get some nasty surprises."

I don't know what to make of DOE's response to the ABA's lawsuit. If the PSLF program collapses, Betsy DeVos's credibility as the Secretary of Education, already compromised by her ties to the for-profit industry, will be completely destroyed.

To paraphrase  Walter Sobchak's remark to Donny in The Big Lebowski, "Betsy, you may be out of your element." DOE may come to its senses and straighten out the PSLF mess; in fact, I think that will probably happen.  But the political consequences of this episode will reverberate for a long time.

"Donny, you're out of your element."
References

Stacy Cowley. Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says. New York Times, March 30, 2017.

Steve Rhode. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Teeters With Unmitigated Disaster. Personal Finance Syndication Network, PFSyn.com, May 2, 2017.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recent Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Bankruptcy Rulings – March 2017: A Must-Read Article by Steve Rhode

If you are overwhelmed by your student loans and thinking about filing for bankruptcy, you should read this essay by Steve Rhode. Mr. Rhode examined recent bankruptcy court adversary proceedings in which student borrowers brought complaints against Navient or National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. As Mr. Rhode relates, debtors often won significant relief in these lawsuits--sometimes through settlement agreements.

Why is Mr. Rhode's article important to you?

First, his article contains links to adversary complaints that were drafted by attorneys. If you file your own adversary complaint against your student-loan creditor, you can use these complaints as templates to file your own complaint.

Second, the proceedings Mr. Rhode examined show various theories under which debtors sought to have their loans discharged. Some of those theories might work for you.

I am frankly surprised that debtors were so successful in the cases Mr. Rhode analyzed. I wonder whether Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust are more amenable to settlement than Educational Credit Management Corporation and the U.S. Department of Education. ECMC and the Department of Education have opposed bankruptcy relief in a multitude of cases, even in cases where it was clear the debtor was desperate. (See for example, Roth v. ECMC and Abney v. U.S. Department of Education.)

Mr. Rhode has presented us with a very useful analysis of recent adversary proceedings against Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. A trend may be developing toward better bankruptcy outcomes for distressed student-loan debtors. Wouldn't that be a terrific development?




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Out of curiosity I decided to take a look at recent bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings that had closed against Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. I looked at a number of cases and it appears people who filed their own Adversary Proceeding against their student loan holders had a less favorable outcome. Those people represented by an attorney, fair better.

At the very least, while the debt may not have been completely eliminated there were certainly some very deep discounts in the amount owed. Also the outcomes in all cases is not always apparent.

For example in Medina v. National Collegiate Student Loan Trust there was an apparent settlement agreement that contained a “release of liability. The Adversary Proceeding was then dismissed. – Source

Medina had asserted in his lawyer prepared complaint that his student loans should be discharged because his flight school was a “sham,” the loans were not used for a qualified educational purpose, and the school was not properly certified. These are issues raised over in this article. – Source

In the case Ard-Kelly v Sallie Mae the debtor owed $913,997 in loans. Of those loans all but $250,595 could be included in a $0 monthly Income Contingent Repayment plan. – Source

It appears all but $219,070 was found to be dischargeable in bankruptcy. While $219,070 is still a lot of money, it’s only 24% of the original balance stated. – Source

In Cotter v. Navient, the debtor had filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy but was said to have still owed about $29,000 in student loan debt. Cotter stated, “Plaintiff incurred this student loan attending a school named ComputerTraining.com. The campus was located at 550 Polaris Parkway Westerville Ohio 43082. The Plaintiff started classes at said school on November 16, 2007 and was able to finish however the education he received was substandard, outdated and useless to him. Furthermore the school promised lifetime job placement assistance along with assistance with interviewing and resumes. The school he attended closed soon after he finished. The school in question is currently part of a class action lawsuit for fraud.” – Source

Following the court action regarding this debt the $29,000 balance was reduced to $2,500 with payments of $35.79 per month at 1% interest. This is about a 92% reduction in the amount owed. The debt will be fully repaid in 72 months. – Source

In Proctor v. Navient the debtor had co-signed for student loans for someone who was not a relative or dependent and said to not be qualified student loans protected in bankruptcy. – Source

The $188,787 balance was reduced to $15,535 at 3% interest and payments of $107.28 per month for 180 months. This is about a 92% reduction in the amount owed. – Source

So as you can see, recent closed bankruptcy Adversary Proceeding cases do result generally in some significant reductions in debt owed.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt Guy
Twitter, G+, Facebook

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Trump Administration Cancels Grace Period and Adds on Big Student Loan Collection Charges: Article by Steve Rhode

This excellent essay by Steve Rhode appeared earlier on the Personal Finance Syndication Network, PFSyncom and on Mr. Rhode's web site titled Get Out of Debt Guy.  contains a variety of good advice and information about all manner of consumer debt problems, including student loans. You can learn more about Steve Rodes here.

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If the recent position by the Department of Education under the Trump administration is any indication of what is to come for federal student loan debtors, watch out.

On March 16, 2017 the Department of Education rolled back protections and policies impacting those who hold FFEL federal student loans. The most recent numbers say about 4.2 million loan holders are in default on these loans at this time. Millions will be impacted by this policy change effective immediately as FFEL loan holder default.

The Obama administration had issued guidance in 2015 that when someone defaulted on a FFEL student loan that they had 60 days to bring the loan back into compliance and current and avoid the tacked on collection charges of up to 16% of the loan balance. This could be accomplished through programs such as the student loan rehabilitation program. It would all debtors to get back on track without exploding their student loan balances with massive collection costs beyond the already unaffordable amounts due.

Under the Obama administration policies, “A guaranty agency cannot charge collection costs to a defaulted borrower who, within the 60-day period following the initial notice, enters into a repayment agreement, including a rehabilitation agreement, and who honors that agreement.” – Source

The rationale given for this clarification was the distinction between a debtor who defaulted but intended to repay and one who was not going to make arrangements and thus cost significantly more to collect from. If a debtor defaulted and then entered into a repayment arrangement what would justify 16% of the loan balance in collection costs? Nothing.

But this policy of giving defaulted FFEL loan holders a grace period to get back on a payment plan goes back to the 1980s and 1990s. This was not an Obama policy.

In 1986, the Department of Education adopted regulations to establish the procedures for referring defaulted debt, which include giving the debtor notice of the proposed offset and an opportunity to avoid the offset by entering into a satisfactory repayment agreement. This policy was restated in 1992 when the then Department of Education said “the borrower could avoid the adverse consequences (report of the default status of the debt, liability for collection costs, and further collections actions) by making a timely agreement to repay the debt voluntarily.”

That’s all changed now. According to the “Dear Colleague” letter that was just released, the Trump Department of Education is withdrawing those policies and so debtors who default on FFEL student loans will have no grace period and will now face large collection fees to be immediately tacked on to the loan balance due. In essence, those who can least afford the default will be penalized and have no incentive to rehabilitate their loans. – Source

The Betsy DeVoss Department of Education says the reason to roll back these rules and policies is because there was an insufficient public comment period when the policies were put into place. Does anyone really believe the FFEL student loan debtors would argue against such a policy? It leaves you wondering why the policy could not have been left in place during a new public comment period and then a decision made. To me it sure seems like a Ready-Fire-Aim approach at dealing with student loan collections and student loan debtors in trouble.

But then of course, the immediate and obvious beneficiary of such a position is going to the be collectors and guaranty agencies who administer those loans.

What do you think? Comment below.

Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance