Welcome to Student Loan News, a weekly summary of developments and events affecting college debt in the U.S. Join us each Friday for a look at goings-on that could impact your own student loan situation.
Government education watchdog faults Federal Student Aid
The inspector general tasked with auditing the Department of Education issued a report this week criticizing the oversight — or lack of oversight — of federal student loan servicers.
Specifically, the report said that when some servicers failed to inform borrowers about all their options or incorrectly calculated income-driven repayments, the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office didn’t adequately track the problems or punish servicers for noncompliance.
By letting servicers off the hook, the report said, the FSA office was giving them no incentive to fix the problems. “Further, FSA’s not holding servicers accountable could lead to servicers being paid more than they should be (the contracts with servicers allow FSA to recover amounts paid for loans not serviced in compliance with requirements).”
The report notes that the FSA office “strongly disagreed with the overall conclusion” of the audit, which covered a period from January 2015 through September 2017, but said “it already had or will implement” the inspector’s recommendations to hold servicers more accountable.
How it affects YOU: If you’ve been following this issue, the report’s finding might not come as much of a surprise. While not all student loan servicers are derelict in their duties, some have definitely been the subject of the complaints laid out in the inspector general’s report.
If you feel you’ve been misled about your federal student loan options or are paying more than you should be, you can file a complaint and demand your rights as a borrower. Meanwhile, we’ll see if this latest exposure of problems within the student loan system results in any improvement.
Much ado about FAFSA
You might remember from last week that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has come out with a bevy of proposals to reshape financial aid and student loans. Some of these might have huge impacts if enacted, such as his idea to cut the number of federal student loan payment plans to two. (Not to mention his more controversial suggestion to deduct student loan payments from borrowers’ paychecks, a topic that finance columnist Zack Friedman wrote about this week, if you’re interested.)
But Alexander, who chairs the Senate committee in charge of education, is also pushing for more minor adjustments, including a plan to drastically trim the number of questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. He says he wants “no more than 25” questions on the form, compared to the 108 he counts there currently.
And now others are getting into the act: Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and White House advisor, joined Alexander in a Facebook video that touts FAFSA reform as a highlight of the senator’s proposed changes to higher education aid. In the short film, Alexander holds a printed copy of the FAFSA, designed to show how long the form is, while Trump asks him to “explain the ridiculousness of this.”
The high profile for this specific FAFSA proposal suggests it may be a priority for Republicans when they meet with the Democrats to discuss reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, something both sides have indicated interest in doing this year.
How it affects YOU: So, this won’t exactly solve the student debt crisis, but let’s look at what it will do. Currently, the Education Department says completing a FAFSA takes “most people less than an hour” to compile the needed information and fill out the form, though some claim the aid application itself can be dispatched in as little as four minutes.
Assuming the number of questions drops to 25, or about 23% of the current total Alexander cites, then if the old form took an hour, the new form would take about 14 minutes. So, under this planned reform, you would save about 46 minutes a year.
Also in the news …
- A bipartisan bill to beef up U.S. government support for historically black colleges and universities has made it through the Senate and looks set for a vote in the House by the beginning of March, Politico reported Thursday. The proposed legislation would have relevant agencies create annual plans to help support HBCUs.
- And there’s another student-related bill with bipartisan support: U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., announced Wednesday the introduction of their Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which, if passed, would “allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to their employees’ student loans.” While some companies already offer student loan repayment assistance to their employees, formal federal laws around such programs could help make them more commonplace, the senators said.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 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.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are 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.