Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Richard Cordray, New Director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is Clueless About the Student Loan Crisis

CFPB's Richard Cordray: Clueless
First, the good news. The nation's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a new director--Richard Cordray; and he is worried about the college loan crisis.  Now the bad news. Mr. Cordray is apparently clueless about how to address this problem.

In an interview with USA Today, Mr. Cordray made clear that the CFPB is concerned about young people who have taken on high levels of debt to attend college.  "Their lives are effectively ruined or certainly potentially held back for many years," Cordray told USA Today. According to a CFPB report, many young people have been forced to postpone buying a home, starting a business or having a family by their massive student loans.

So what does Mr. Corday suggest we do about it?  More education! 

That's right, the CFPB is encouraging better financial education for young college students, including the use of its "Know Before You Owe" online financial aid shopping tool. 

Thanks, Richie, for warning people to be more careful when they take out student loans. 

And what is Mr. Cordray's other suggestion for dealing with the student loan crisis? He advises more borrowers to take advantage of the government's extended loan repayment plans.  Instead of paying loans off in ten years, more debtors should pay a percentage of their income toward paying off their loans over a period of 20 or 25 years.  In other words, he has bought into the sharecropper solution to the student loan crisis.  Just pay a portion of your income to the government over a majority of your working life. 

Thanks again, Richie. That's really helpful.

Not surprisingly, the CFPB's advice fits exactly with the higher education industry's stance on the student loan crisis.  This gigantic problem can be fixed, the colleges' trade organizations say, by giving students more information about borrowing money to attend college and then encouraging students to enroll in long-term income-based repayment plans to pay off their debt.

This stance relieves colleges and universities from reining in their costs, and it relieves the government from any responsibility for effectively regulating the for-profit college sector, where student-loan abuses are most prevalent.

Frankly, this country doesn't need a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if it is just going to perpetuate the status quo and parrot the stance of the rapacious higher education industry.  If the CFPB is going to effectively address the student loan crisis, it should do these things:

1) Insist that the Department of Education accurately report the student loan default rate--the percentage of people who default over the life of the loan repayment period.  It should also insist on an accurate accounting of the people who are not making loan repayments because they obtained financial hardship deferments.

2) Advocate for amending the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student loan debtors to discharge their loans in bankruptcy under the same terms available for discharging other nonsecured debt.

3) Insist on legislation to stop the government from garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student-loan debtors who defaulted on their loans.

And of course there are a host of other things the CFPB can do to address the student-loan crisis besides service a "Know Before You Owe" project. 

But perhaps I'm being unfair to the CFPB. After all, it also operates a complaint department.  If you have a complaint about your student loans,  just call the CFPB's 800 number: 1-800-TUF-LUCK. 


Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Know Before You Owe: Student Loan Project. Accessible at:

Jayne O'Donnell. Consumer protection chief talks student loans. USA Today, August 5, 2013, p. 3B.

No comments:

Post a Comment