Student Debt Viewpoints: Congressman Tom Reed

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“Student Debt Viewpoints” is an occasional series looking at the student debt crisis — its causes and possible solutions — by speaking with different stakeholders in the issue, including government officials, students, school administrators, activists, and others. The views expressed are those of the articles’ subjects and are not necessarily those of Student Loan Hero or its parent LendingTree.

We hear a lot about the student loan debt crisis these days. And it’s a real threat: Outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1.5 trillion — almost 50% more than total U.S. credit card debt — and the cost of college keeps rising.

Some lawmakers like Tom Reed, a Republican representing New York’s 23rd District in the House of Representatives, are interested in tackling the causes of the skyrocketing cost of college.

Reed has introduced legislation aimed at the problem, and he routinely advocates for different measures designed to make college more affordable for students.

“This is an area that affects the futures of so many young men and women, and it’s time to address the issue before it gets even worse,” said Reed. “We’re shackling our children and grandchildren to debt if we don’t do something.”

tom reed

Rep. Tom Reed

Meet Tom Reed

The youngest of 12 children, Reed was born into a busy household, headed by his father, decorated war veteran Tom Sr., and his mother Betty. But after the death of his father when he was 2 years old, Reed was on the hook for paying for his own schooling.

Reed learned, firsthand, the pain of student debt. His own student loans, after finishing law school at Ohio Northern University, amounted to about $110,000.

“The plight of students wanting to make a living is near and dear to my heart,” said Reed, who has two children of his own now in college. “I understand what it’s like to struggle with this debt.”

Reed served as the mayor of Corning, New York, from 2008-2009 and was elected to the House of Representatives during a 2010 special election in his mostly rural district running along the border with Pennsylvania.

Tom Reed on the Student Debt Crisis

“When you talk about the student debt crisis, you have to talk about the reasons college is so expensive today,” said Reed. “There’s no cost containment, and there’s a great deal of price inflation.”

Part of the problem comes from the fact that it’s so easy to get student loans to cover the costs of college. Because schools know that students will get funding from somewhere, Reed said, it leads to complacency about rising costs — and there’s no reason to rein in expenses.

On top of that, Reed also believes that there’s an element of unnecessary price inflation to give parents the illusion that the school is of a higher quality — and to give them something to brag about around the watercooler when their children get scholarships.

“We’re talking price inflation at the used-car salesman level,” said Reed. “People feel like they’re buying a Mercedes because of the cost. They look at it, and they don’t know how they’ll pay, but then the school offers a scholarship.”

Reed added that many of these scholarships don’t cover the full cost of college, so students have to turn to student loans to cover the rest. “But the psychological effect of having received a scholarship is powerful,” he said. “And you can’t discount the fact that we so often equate large expense with value, so people think they’re getting a good deal on a good education.”

Not only do schools inflate costs, according to Reed, but the idea that everyone has to attend a four-year school also contributes to the problem.

“You think you have to get a so-called traditional four-year degree, so you don’t consider other options,” he said. “However, many students could save money by starting at community college, and we’ve got a shortage of people skilled in the trades.”

Today, said Reed, a four-year degree isn’t a guarantee of a good-paying job. “Many grads find themselves drowning in debt they can’t afford, just because they were steered toward a four-year degree,” he said. “That debt delays their ability to meet other life milestones, like buying a house and starting a family. Those delays make ripples through our economy and our society.”

Proposals and solutions

Tom Reed believes it will take multiple strategies to fix the student debt crisis, and some of those ideas have bipartisan support.

Among the proposals Reed backs is making federal student loans eligible for public refinancing at lower rates, without losing access to federal programs like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (Today, the only way to refinance federal loans is privately — resulting in borrowers getting locked out of those useful options.) He also likes the idea of work-off programs: “Expand programs that offer some level of loan forgiveness to graduates who work in underserved areas.”

However, one subject Reed is particularly focused on is universities that hoard money in billion-dollar endowments, rather than using these funds to benefit the neediest of students.

In May 2018, Tom Reed introduced the Reducing Excessive Debt and Unfair Costs of Education (REDUCE) Act into the House of Representatives. (You can keep up with higher education legislation using our Student Loan Bill Tracker.)

Reed said the main thrust of the legislation is to shed light on high-value endowments, citing 90 institutions with endowments amounting to $1 billion or more in tax-free dollars. Unfortunately, he said, there isn’t a lot of transparency in how that money is used.

“If you look at these endowments, there’s some crazy stuff,” Reed said. “Some people can give a tax-advantaged endowment to a university and put strings on how it’s used, including putting in a box at the football stadium for personal use.”

Reed said there are cases of universities spending $3.6 million a year on a finance manager or allowing a college president to spend $800,000 on sports season tickets, money that he believes should instead go toward lowering the cost of attendance for working-class families.

“Under the REDUCE Act, universities with the greatest wealth would be required to distribute 25% of their endowment profits to assist low- and middle-income students,” said Reed. “And the endowments would be required to clearly and transparently disclose exactly where they are spending money.”

Changes to tax deductions would also be made as a way to benefit schools that help students, while punishing endowments that don’t.

Other provisions of the REDUCE Act include:

  • Requiring colleges to have a plan for limiting tuition increases to below the rate of inflation
  • Encouraging university donors to focus more on low- and middle-income student assistance, rather than making restricted donations that don’t benefit students

“When these schools are required to evaluate their costs, and when the public can see where the money is really going, that should put pressure on universities to put more toward making college costs manageable for students,” said Reed.

How to make college affordable

“In the end, universities are doing a lot of things that inflate the cost of college without providing much value to students,” said Reed.

“There’s an amenity mindset with universities. They think they need all these bells and whistles, but when you talk to students, those amenities aren’t deciding factors,” he said.

While Reed believes that institutions can do a lot more to make costs affordable to students, he also places some of the responsibility on parents.

“It’s hard to tell your child that they can’t go to their expensive dream school,” he said. “But I did it with my own daughter when I told her she couldn’t go to Syracuse University because of its high cost.”

 

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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
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