Washington Update- December 29, 2017

Washington Update- December 29, 2017

This is the latest update from Washington, designed to keep NACBA members informed about significant and relevant activity on the part of Congress, regulatory agencies and interest groups/think tanks.  Feedback should be directed to Krista.DAmelio@NACBA.com

ON THE HILL  Earlier this month, Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) introduced H.R.4584, the Student Security Act. H.R. 4584 is described as a completely voluntary program, that would empower borrowers who opt in to receive $550 in student loan forgiveness (or roughly the average cost for 1 credit hour at a public university) in exchange for raising a participant’s full-retirement age for Social Security benefits by 1 month with a maximum amount of $40,150 in debt relief and a corresponding 6 years, 1 month raise in retirement.

Two House Democrats sent letters on December 18th to four of the largest student loan servicing companies, seeking information about their policies and procedures for collecting. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Pramila Jayapal of (D-WA) say they’re concerned about “the rising rate of student loan defaults and continuous claims of fraudulent practices in lending, servicing, and collecting” of student loans. The two lawmakers urged the companies to take steps to improve customer service and focus more attention on “high risk” borrowers. Read the letters they sent to the leaders of Navient, Nelnet, Great Lakes and FedLoan Servicing.

On Wednesday, December 13th House Republicans passed a partisan revision of the Higher Education Act that would restructure federal student loans and reduce accessibility to higher education by limiting financial aid options. The bill consolidates the six current federal student loans into three and removes the Graduate PLUS and Parent PLUS loan options. PLUS loans offer no limit and cover the entirety of the institution’s cost of attendance. Under the House’s revision, all federal loans would have maximums, with annual and lifetime loan caps.

IN THE AGENCIES The Education Department announced Wednesday, December 20th a reversal of the Obama administration policy of wiping out student debt. This means that students who were defrauded by the for-profit Corinthian Colleges may not get their loans forgiven entirely. Under President Barack Obama, tens of thousands of students deceived by the now-defunct schools had more than $550 million in federal student loans canceled in full. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Wednesday she is putting a new process in place that she says is more efficient and fair. The department will now look at average income for specific programs to determine if the loans should be forgiven fully or partially.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit on December 14th against the U.S. Department of Education and its Secretary, Betsy DeVos, for refusing to process debt relief claims submitted by tens of thousands of students who took out federal student loans to attend Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (Corinthian). Students became eligible to apply for this relief after the courts found that Corinthian defrauded these students in violation of California consumer protection laws. More than 1 in 4 of those students with pending debt relief claims resided in California.

FROM THE INTEREST GROUPS Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) strongly condemns the Department of Education’s announcement that they have denied relief to 8,600 borrowers who applied for debt discharges through borrower defense to repayment. The Department has not specified—but must immediately supply—the reasons for those denials, and how many of them came from Corinthian or ITT, schools that closed under the weight of their own illegal and abusive acts. “The news of the Department’s scheme to grant only partial relief to scammed students is just one more piece of an abundance of evidence that the Trump Administration and the DeVos Department of Education care more for the proprietary institutions that break the law than they do for the students they defraud,” said Alexis Goldstein, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for a Financial Reform. “For Secretary DeVos, it’s predatory companies first, students last.”

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