Writing in response to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Times said this:
The Bureau's report--drawn from 30,000 public comments filed with the agency from May to July--suggests that some [student-loan] servicers are actually pushing struggling borrowers toward default by giving them misinformation, by making it difficult for them to refinance at lower interest rates and by withholding valuable information about affordable payment plans that are in the struggling borrower's best interest.The Times is right to say that the government's loan processors are doing a crummy job of counseling student-loan debtors. Nevertheless, it fails to grasp the fact that income-based repayment plans--which the Obama administration and the Times both favor--are not a solution to the student-loan crisis.
These plans can last as long as 25 years, and most people who select this option will be making payments so small that their loan balances will actually go up because loan payments are not large enough to cover accruing interest. In fact, the Times editorial acknowledged this fact.
As the Times pointed out, 10 million people have either defaulted on their student loans or are in delinquency. But this figure understates the size of the crisis. In addition to the 10 million cited by the Times, 3.9 million are in income-based repayment plans, and another 9 million people are not paying down their loans because they obtained deferments or forbearances that excuse them from making loan payments.
In short, 23 million people are weighed down by student loans they can't pay back.
The Times said the Feds have come up with a plan "that they believe will prevent borrowers from being eaten alive." But what is that plan? Basically, the federal government wants the loan servicers to make stronger pitches for long-term income-based repayment options.
This is a cowardly response to the student-loan crisis. The Times and the Feds think this enormous problem can be swept under the rug by enticing millions of people to make student-loan payments over 20 or 25 years instead of 10.
But that won't work. The Department of Education admitted a few months ago that more than half of the people who are enrolled in income-based repayment plans failed to file their annual income statements,which is a condition of participation. People simply don't want to report their income to the Department of Education on an annual basis in return for the privilege of paying on their student loans for a majority of their working lives.
Department of Education insiders know that the federal student-loan program is heading toward disaster, but they are not trying to fix it. They are simply hoping to postpone the crisis until after the next presidential election.
|Hey, is that Arne Duncan?|
Editorial, "Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued." New York Times, October 7, 2015, A 26.