Top Student Loan News Stories of 2018

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As 2018 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at what’s happened in the world of student loans. With more than 44 million Americans owing $1.48 trillion, student loans have remained a hot-button topic with no easy answers.

From controversy over the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to court cases against the nation’s biggest student loan servicer, here are some of the top developments in student loan news over the past year.

1. Judge says no more roadblocks from DeVos on ‘borrower defense to repayment’

Introduced during the Obama administration, the borrower defense to repayment program cancels student loan debt for those who were defrauded by for-profit colleges.

About 48,000 claims for debt forgiveness had been granted when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos halted the program in July 2017, claiming that the rules made it too easy for borrowers to get their loans discharged.

After more than a year of delays, a judge ruled in October of this year that the roadblocks were unconstitutional and that the borrower defense to repayment program must resume without further delay.

Given the fact that 106,000 borrowers were waiting to hear on their application status, this ruling could help a lot of defrauded students get released from their student loan debt.

2. Americans default on student loans in record numbers

With the student loan burden heavier than ever, it’s not surprising that more than 1 million Americans default on their student loans every year. More than 5 million Americans had defaulted on their student loans by the end of 2017.

What’s more, students of color are shouldering heavier debt burdens and showing higher rates of default than white students. Nearly 1 in 2 African-American students who started school in 2003, for instance, went into default at some point over the ensuing 12 years.

If the student loan crisis continues the way it has been, the Brookings Institution predicts that nearly 40% of borrowers will default on their student loans by 2023.

3. Navient audit surfaces

In January 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced it was suing Navient, one of the nation’s largest student loan servicers, for “failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

Since then, five states — California, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Washington — have also sued Navient for unfair and deceptive practices.

And this past fall, an audit of Navient by the Department of Education said it had sometimes failed to let struggling borrowers know about all their options, costing them extra money in the long run. In fact, the department carried out this audit in 2017 but reportedly kept the findings under wraps, even as the various lawsuits surrounding the company proceeded.

Among the complaints against Navient, which services more than $300 billion in student loans for 12 million customers, are that it applied payments incorrectly and failed to inform borrowers about their options, such as income-driven repayment plans.

If you’ve had bad experiences with your student loan servicer, remember that you might be able to switch to a new one through direct loan consolidation or student loan refinancing.

4. Many Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) borrowers remain in limbo

Signed into law in 2007, the PSLF program offers loan forgiveness to borrowers who work in public service for at least 10 years. But when the first borrowers became eligible in 2017, many reported that their applications for loan forgiveness went unanswered.

According to CNBC, more than 30,000 people had applied for student loan discharge through PSLF as of September 2018, but only 96 actually got it. That’s less than 1% of applicants.

What’s more, House Republicans suggested abolishing the program altogether with the PROSPER Act. However, with Democrats having gained control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, the PROSPER Act now looks unlikely to pass.

Still, this opposition to PSLF sends a message to borrowers that the program might not be around forever. And even in its current form, qualifying for forgiveness can be tricky if you don’t fill out all the paperwork correctly.

If you’re working toward PSLF, make sure you’re careful about fulfilling all the application requirements, so that your request doesn’t get delayed or even denied on a technicality.

5. U.S. student loan ombudsman resigns in protest

When the Trump administration closed the Office of Students and Young Consumers, the only federal office tasked with protecting borrowers, student loan ombudsman Seth Frotman resigned in protest.

As student loan ombudsman, Frotman’s job was to protect education loan borrowers from predatory lending practices. In his resignation letter to then-CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney, Frotman wrote: “Unfortunately, under your leadership, the bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

6. Midterm elections may change student loan environment

With more millennials running for office, student loans was a topic of discussion in November’s midterm elections.

Not only did those running for office cast a spotlight on this national crisis, but some candidates were also candid about their own struggles with student debt, such as Natalie Higgins of Massachusetts and Matt Lesser of Connecticut. The two newly re-elected state representatives are each working on legislation that would require student loan servicers in their respective states to abide by consumer protections.

Although the future of student loan legislation remains unclear, the Democrats’ win at the House of Representatives suggests they’ll be able to conduct strict oversight of Department of Education policies and decisions.

7. Another for-profit college chain shuts down

Over the past few years, several for-profit college chains have shut their doors, including ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian College.

The latest victim is the Education Corporation of America, a major operator of vocational training programs, which said earlier this month that it was closing more than 70 campuses.

The closure leaves over 20,000 students stranded, as many will have trouble transferring their credits or partially completed degrees to another school.

8. IRS ruling allows a 401(k) match for student loan repayment

In August, the Internal Revenue Service issued a new ruling that could help student loan borrowers balance debt payoff with saving for retirement. This ruling approved a new type of benefit which involves a company 401(k) match in exchange for paying off student loans.

As long as the employee pays at least 2% of their income toward student loans, an employer can make a 5% matching contribution to their 401(k). Previously, the employee had to put money into the 401(k) to get a match.

This ruling could make it easier for borrowers to focus on student loan repayment while still securing their finances for the future.

9. New game show has contestants competing to get student loans paid off

With millions of Americans struggling with student loans, and few solutions in sight, a new game show decided to take things into its own hands.

Debuting in July 2018, “Paid Off” has indebted contestants compete in trivia and other games. All the players have a chance to win money toward their student loans, but the grand prize winner gets 100% of their debt wiped clean.

Devised by actor-comedian Michael Torpey, this student loan-busting game show runs on TruTV.

Be on the lookout for student loan changes in 2019

With the cost of tuition higher than ever, and Americans taking on even greater amounts of student debt, we can expect student loans to be a part of the national conversation for years to come.

People continue to debate the best path forward, with some experts calling for a complete forgiveness of our national student debt, and others saying that forgiveness programs are too generous.

Given all the different opinions, we’re sure to see more changes to student loan policy in the coming year, so stay informed to ensure you make the best decisions for your student debt.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:

    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.074% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.540% APR to 7.115% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.540% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.49% plus 0.04% margin minus 0.25% ACH 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. See eligibility details. 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. SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 11, 2019 and are subject to change without notice.

  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)

2 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 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% 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 March 18, 2019, 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 0318/2019. 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.


3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

FIXED APR
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

VARIABLE APR
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. 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. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.83 to $194.73. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.64 to $147.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.58 to $113.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.86 to $87.94. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.23 to $76.93.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


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

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable 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 March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 2.98%-9.72% (2.98%-9.72% 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 co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 3.89%-9.99% (3.89%-9.99% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown 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. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. 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. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.

2.54% – 7.12%3Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.54% – 7.27%1Undergrad
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2.67% – 8.96%4Undergrad
& Graduate

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3.23% – 6.65%2Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.69% – 7.43%5Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.98% – 9.72%6Undergrad
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.