CFPB Shines a Spotlight on Troubling Student Loan Servicing Practices Amid Payment Resumption

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has recently issued a spotlight on its oversight of student loan servicing practices, revealing alarming trends as federal student loan repayments resume after a three-year pause due to the COVID-19 emergency.

As millions of borrowers navigate the complexities of restarting repayments, they are reportedly encountering significant obstacles. These include long hold times when reaching out to their loan servicers, delays in processing applications for income-driven repayment plans, and inaccurate billing statements and disclosures.

“The resumption of student loan payments means that borrowers are making billions of dollars of payments each month,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “If student loan companies are cutting corners or sidestepping the law, this can pose serious risks to individuals and the economy.”

The Return to Repayment: A Rocky Road

The CFPB has been closely monitoring the experiences of student borrowers during the resumption of repayments. Using consumer complaints to identify emerging problems and its supervisory authority to examine loan servicer conduct and performance, the CFPB has identified several key concerns.

One of the most troubling findings is that borrowers are often forced to wait on hold for over an hour when contacting their servicers. Many calls are abandoned before borrowers receive any assistance, leaving them unable to resolve errors, get answers to questions, or enroll in affordable repayment or cancellation plans.

The report also highlights significant delays in processing income-driven repayment plan applications. In late October 2023, servicers reported having more than 1.25 million pending applications, with over 450,000 of those pending for more than 30 days. These delays could potentially put borrowers at risk of making payments much higher than they can afford.

Moreover, borrowers are receiving inaccurate and confusing bills from servicers. Errors range from listing premature due dates before the end of the payment pause, to inflating monthly payment amounts due to outdated poverty guidelines, or using incorrect income data when calculating new income-driven repayment plan payments.

A Call to Action

The revelations outlined in the CFPB’s issue spotlight underscore the urgent need for improved oversight and regulation of student loan servicing practices. As the nation navigates the resumption of student loan repayments, it is crucial that borrowers have access to accurate information, timely assistance, and fair treatment.

The CFPB has previously conducted research on how the return to repayment could impact borrowers’ financial situations and has highlighted complaints about the process. The latest spotlight further emphasizes the need for action to ensure a smoother transition back to repayment for millions of student borrowers across the nation.

Read the report, Issue Spotlight: Federal Student Loan Return to Repayment.

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