Improving consumer protections for federal and private student loans to help ease student loan debt is the aim of an amendment to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act introduced March 8 by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. It includes a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights as well as some bankruptcy protections.
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) has learned from a number of its members that the Department of Education (DOE) and its student loan servicers are kicking out bankruptcy debtors from their income-driven repayment plans. This is happening when debtors file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 — even if they are current on their student loan repayments.
If you have defaulted on your federal student loan — you are not alone. According to a September 2017 article in the Washington Post, “the share of people not making payments on their federal student loans within three years of leaving college has risen, reversing five years of reported declines in new defaults.”
The shift is subtle — up to 11.5 percent from 11.3 percent from 2015 to 2016 — but the raw numbers show what a significant issue this is. Of the more than 5 million people who began repaying their student loans in October 2013, 580,671 defaulted.
An important factor that sets student loan debt apart from all other kinds of debt is that it’s just about impossible to rid yourself of it. Even borrowers that end up in such financial burdens file for bankruptcy and struggle to get a fresh start void of their student loan debt.
But a few cases working their way through the legal system could alter that. They increase the possibility that the courts might offer a loose definition of how difficult the borrower’s financial situation is before a bankruptcy judge can justify discharging his or her loans.
According to The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there are 8 million student loan borrowers in default.* If you are one of those, you may be asking yourself , How did I get here?
My experience with working with those clients who have student loans has shown me that student loan default could have been avoided had their servicers been forthright with the information they needed to prevent default, and options for student loan default resolution. In the majority of cases that I have seen, the services play hide and seek with vital information, leaving the student loan borrower confused.