Student Loan News: Education Dept. Not Sharing Data With States

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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.

PSLF denies 99% of requests (again)

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released new numbers on Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) approvals, and they’re as low as ever. Of all the applications, the Education Department approved just 1%, or 661 requests, for forgiveness, and denied 99%, or 52,523 requests, little changed from the previous PSLF numbers released in May.

According to the GAO, the Education Department doesn’t provide enough details on the PSLF program online, and loan servicers are not required to share information on the program via their own websites. As a result, the GAO said, the application process is “not clear to borrowers” and many “may miss the opportunity to have their loans forgiven.”

How it affects YOU: If you’re banking on PSLF, make sure to research the program’s requirements and expectations. Don’t rely solely on the Education Department website, as it might not tell you everything you need to know. Instead, look to other trusted resources to fill in the gaps. And make sure to submit the Employment Certification Form every year to ensure you’re staying on track toward loan forgiveness.

Education Dept. stops sharing student loan info with states

While state law enforcement agencies have requested student loan data, the Education Department has stopped sharing it. Diane Jones, a top advisor to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, said the department’s move was meant to protect the privacy of borrowers, according to Politico.

Jones also said that most requests for data had to do with investigations into identity theft, though at least some of the requests come from state attorneys general who are investigating or suing federal student loan servicers. The North Carolina attorney’s general office, for instance, had its request denied for information about the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the PSLF program.

How it affects YOU: Unless you’re taking legal action against a federal student loan servicer, this stance from the Education Department probably won’t affect you much. But it does reveal the limitations that states are up against in investigations they pursue or legal actions they take against student loan servicers for misleading or otherwise acting against the best interest of borrowers.

Also in the news…

  • During the annual National HBCU Week Conference, Trump pledged to support HBCUs. Shortly after the president’s speech, the head of the Thurgood Marshall Fund called on Trump to pass the Future Act, saying that without it, minority-serving institutions will lose hundreds of millions a year in federal funding.
  • After months of opposition from the administration, the borrower defense to repayment program is on track to grant loan discharges to former students of the now defunct ITT Tech, Politico reported last week. Those who were attending the school at the time it closed in September 2016 should see their federal loan balances automatically discharged soon.
  • The state of Maryland is offering a new tax credit for state residents who have at least $5,000 to pay on their student loans, reports Delmarva Public Radio. Nearly 9,500 residents could qualify for the tax credits — if they file before the Sept. 15 deadline.
  • Hasan Minhaj, comedian and host of “The Patriot Act,” testified before Congress on Tuesday about loan servicing companies and borrower protections, MarketWatch reported. In a recent episode of his show, Minhaj criticized student loan servicer Navient and the Trump administration.

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