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Special notice for Corinthian students

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Today, we announced a lawsuit against for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, Inc. We allege that the company lured in tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. Our lawsuit also alleges that Corinthian used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school.

Corinthian Colleges, Inc. is one of the largest for-profit college companies in the United States, operating more than 100 school campuses under the names Everest, Heald, and WyoTech.

Today, we’re also publishing a special notice for current and former Corinthian students to help you navigate your options in this time of uncertainty, including information on loan discharge options.

If you experience difficulty with your student loan you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372. You can also find more information about options for repaying your student loan on our website.

Alerting colleges about secret banking contracts

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If you’re a student preparing to head back to campus, you may encounter offers from banks and other companies that promote debit cards, prepaid cards, bank accounts, and other products branded with your school’s name or logo. When your school makes a deal with a company to market a financial product, it’s important for you to have basic information about this agreement and to understand what this means for your options. Last year, we launched an inquiry into financial products marketed to college and university students to determine whether the market is working for students and families.

We called on financial institutions to publicly disclose agreements with institutions of higher education to market financial products to students. Information about these arrangements is already required to be disclosed when marketing credit cards and private student loans to students—these requirements were put in place after companies were found to have paid schools and school officials in order to steer students into these products.

Making these agreements available for all financial products shows schools’ and companies’ commitment to transparency, helping students and their families understand basic information about these products before you sign up.

We decided to take a look at the financial institution partners of a group of some of the largest universities in America – members of the Big Ten conference – to see if they’ve disclosed agreements on their websites. Together, these schools enroll more than a half a million students.

Of the 14 member schools (yes, there are 14 schools in the Big Ten), it appears that at least 11 have established banking partners to market financial products to students. Of those 11, we were able to easily find only four contracts on the partner websites, but three of those four contracts did not contain important information, such as how much they pay schools to gain access to students in order to market and sell them financial products and services.

University Financial partner Contract available on partner website?
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign TCF Bank Partially
Indiana University Unknown -
University of Iowa Hills Bank & Trust Co. Yes
University of Maryland Capital One No
University of Michigan TCF Bank Partially
Michigan State University MSU Credit Union No
University of Minnesota TCF Bank Partially
University of Nebraska Wells Fargo Bank No
Northwestern University US Bank No
Ohio State University Huntington Bank No
Penn State University PNC Bank No
Purdue University Unknown -
Rutgers University Unknown -
University of Wisconsin UW Credit Union No

We’re not the only ones to take note. Recently, the Government Accountability Office also noted that “increased transparency for college card agreements could help ensure that the terms are fair and reasonable for students and the agreements are free from conflicts of interest.”

We’re also sending alerts (here’s an example) to schools to make sure they know that their bank partner has not yet committed to transparency when it comes to student financial products.

If you’re starting school this fall, be sure to check out our guide on student banking. You can learn about various options when looking for a bank account. And remember, you can’t be required to use the bank that pays your school to market to you.

Have you been able to find your school’s contract with its bank partner? Tell us your story and tag it as “student banking.”

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about the CFPB’s work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Updated August 7, 2014: An earlier version of this post noted that Purdue University and Indiana University had established agreements in place with partner financial institutions, but these agreements are related to real estate. We’ve updated this post accordingly.

What happens to your student loans if your school is shut down

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When you’re told that your college will be shutting down, there can be a lot of uncertainty about what comes next. Here is some helpful advice to help you navigate the situation.

This information and answers to other common questions about student loans are also available through Ask CFPB.

If you have federal student loans

If you have federal student loans and are currently enrolled or recently left a college or university that has shut its doors, you may be able to discharge (cancel) your loans if you apply for a loan discharge.

This option is only a possibility if your school closes. If you are attending a school that is sold, you may not be eligible to ask for discharge under this process, even if your school no longer offers your program of study.

If you do have your federal loans discharged and you end up transferring credits to a similar program, you may have to pay back the loans that were discharged.

You may have to pay income taxes if you get your student loans discharged when your school closes. If you don’t think you can afford to do so, you can petition the IRS to reduce your tax bill. Contact the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate to learn about your options.

If you have private student loans

Generally, if you have private student loans, you will still be responsible for repaying them. However, some states may have programs that assist students with private student loans in the event of a school closure. In addition, some private student lenders may offer options to assist certain borrowers in this situation.

If you think you won’t be able to afford to repay your private student loan, you should contact your student loan servicer immediately to learn more about your options. And if you run into trouble, you can also submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

If you’re offered an option for a “teach-out” to complete your program

If your school has announced that it is closing, you may be offered a “teach out,” an arrangement through which you may be able to complete your program and receive your degree or certificate.

If you accept a “teach-out” to complete your program at your school or another school, you will be responsible for repaying all of your student loans. If you decline a “teach-out” offer and the school closes, you may not have to pay back your federal student loans.

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about the CFPB’s work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Consumer advisory: Co-signers can cause surprise defaults on your private student loans

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Today, we released a report that describes complaints we received related to the private student loan industry’s practice of placing borrowers in default even when their loans are current and in good standing. We’re also warning consumers that they can avoid surprise defaults by pursuing a co-signer release.

The vast majority of private student loans today have a co-signer (typically a parent or a grandparent). Having a co-signer can often lead to a lower interest rate, which can save you money in the long-term, because the co-signer will have to repay the loan if you don’t.

However, your loan might also contain provisions that allow your student loan servicer to put you in default — even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

That’s because your co-signer is also on the hook for your loan and therefore changes in their behavior can impact your loan, causing your loan to default and making your entire balance due all at once. We’ve received complaints that private student loan servicers are placing borrowers into default when their co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy.

Co-signer release

If you are a co-signer or have a student loan with a co-signer and you are in repayment, you should look into what’s called “co-signer release.” You should consider this option to avoid a surprise default. Both the borrower and co-signer can benefit from obtaining the release.

Many lenders advertise that a co-signer may be released from a private student loan after a certain number of consecutive, timely payments and a credit check to determine if you are eligible to repay the loan on your own. If your lender offers co-signer release, you will want to ask about this benefit and remove your co-signer as soon as you are eligible.

Unfortunately, many student loan servicers do not tell you when you are eligible to have your co-signer released, so you need to ask them how to do this.

To help you get started, we’ve put together sample letters you can edit and send to your student loan servicer. You can download sample letters to send by mail, or you can just cut and paste the text below into the “Send a Message” or “Contact Us” feature when you log into your account on the servicer’s website.

I want more information about how to obtain a release of my co-signer

I am writing to you because I am seeking the release of my co-signer on my loan. Please conduct a review of my account to determine if I am eligible for co-signer release.

If you determine that I am not eligible to have my co-signer released from my loans, please provide an explanation, including the following:

  • What is your current co-signer release policy?
  • For what reason(s) am I ineligible for co-signer release?
  • If I am not eligible for co-signer release now, when will I become eligible?
  • What steps do I need to take to qualify for co-signer release?
  • Do you anticipate modifying these requirements in the future? Will any future modifications apply to me when I seek to release my co-signer?

If I am unable to exercise this option at this time, please update/annotate my account to reflect that I intend to seek co-signer release as soon as possible. Please contact me at the point-in-time at which I am eligible to have my co-signer released.

In addition, if you are unable to provide any of the information or documentation I have requested or otherwise cannot comply with this request, please provide an explanation.

Thank you for your cooperation.

I am a co-signer, I want to be released

I am writing to request that I be released from my obligation to repay any loans associated with this account. Please conduct a review of this account and make a determination as to my eligibility to be released from my obligation.

If you determine that I am not eligible, please provide an explanation, including the following:

  • For what reason(s) am I ineligible for co-signer release?
  • What steps do I need to take to qualify for co-signer release?
  • What is your current co-signer release policy?
  • Do you anticipate modifying these requirements in the future? Will any future modifications apply to me when I seek to be released from this obligation?

If I am unable to exercise this option at this time, please update/annotate this account or accounts to reflect that I intend to do so as soon as possible. Please contact me at the point-in-time at which I am eligible for co-signer release.

In addition, if you are unable to provide any of the information or documentation I have requested or otherwise cannot comply with this request, please provide an explanation.

Thank you for your cooperation.

We also have other sample letters you can send to your student loan servicer to give payment instructions and others you can send to a student loan debt collector.

Remember, if you’re having a problem with a student loan, you can submit a complaint online or call us at (855) 411-2372.

If you have questions about repaying student loans, check out our Repay Student Debt tool to find out how you can tackle your student loan debt.

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about our work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Explainer: Federal student loan interest rates to jump

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Updated on May 7, 2014

Right now, many students and families across the country are receiving financial aid offers and deciding how to pay for college. Most students will need to shop for student loans now, and some of you have asked us what the new rates will be. While rates aren’t set in stone yet, interest rates on new federal student loans are expected to jump this July.

We’ve updated our Paying for College tool using our best guess of what the rates will be, so you can have a better estimate of what your monthly payment might be after graduation.

Interest rates on most federal student loans are based on a certain type of bond that the Treasury Department issues, known as the ten-year note. The yield is the rate at which investors charge the federal government for borrowing money. Next month, there will be a Treasury bond auction, and that rate will set federal student loan interest rates.

Here’s what federal student loan interest rates on new loans might look like, compared to this past year.

Current and estimated interest rates on federal student loans

Loan type Interest rate on loans taken out between July 2013 and June 2014 Estimated new rate on loans taken out between July 2014 and June 2015
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (for undergraduate students) 3.86% 5.09%
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (for graduate/professional students) 5.41% 6.64%
Direct PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate/professional students) 6.41% 7.64%

Higher rates will mean a higher monthly payment after graduation. You can simulate this on your own by using our Paying for College tool, but here’s a quick summary of the changes.

Estimated monthly payment for every $5,000 in balances entering repayment

Loan type Monthly payment for this year’s rate Monthly payment for next year’s rate (estimated) Total increase over ten years
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (for undergraduate students) $50.29 $53.25 $355.49
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (for graduate/professional students) $54.04 $57.13 $370.84
Direct PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate/professional students) $56.55 $59.72 $380.59

Yet many students end up borrowing more than $5,000 for their education. For instance, graduate students borrowed an average of approximately $18,600 in PLUS Loans per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With interest rates set to go up, many graduate students who borrow after July will pay an additional $1,400 over ten years of repayment for each year they are in school, compared to this year’s rate.

We’ll be sure to update these rates in our tool once they’re finalized. In the meantime, you should use your Financial Aid Shopping Sheet and our Paying for College tool to help you figure out how your school choice might impact your loan payments after graduation.

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about the CFPB’s work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Updates

Updated on May 7, 2014:
Today, the Treasury Department released the rate for the ten-year note, which sets the interest rates for federal student loans. Interest rates on new federal student loans taken out between July 2014 and June 2015 will indeed be higher compared to last year’s rates. The actual rates are lower than the previous estimates noted above, which were based on Congressional Budget Office projections. The Department of Education will post the official interest rates, but here is a preview of the rates we expect:

Loan type New interest rate on loans taken out between July 2014 and June 2015
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (for undergraduate students): 4.66%
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (for graduate/professional students): 6.21%
Direct PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate/professional students): 7.21%

The Perkins Loans interest rate for undergraduate and graduate/professional students remains fixed at 5 percent.

Choosing a college is a big deal. We can help!

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This month, students across the country will receive college acceptance letters. For many people, the excitement of being one step closer to realizing their dream or reaching a major life milestone is coupled with anxiety about how to pay for it and the prospect of taking on student loan debt.

Compare your financial aid offers now.

To help you navigate these new waters, we’ve just launched a crisp new version of our Paying for College tool kit. Making apples-to-apples comparison of your financial aid offers has never been easier. Now you can compare offers from community college, bachelor’s, certificate, and graduate programs. We’ve incorporated a more user-friendly design and reintroduced the GI Bill calculator, which gives servicemembers the ability to calculate the benefits available to them through the GI Bill and tuition assistance programs.

We also heard from you that you wished our tool would provide information that complemented what schools are providing to students in their financial aid packages. We’re currently piloting a way to do just that. More than 2,000 schools have adopted the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (developed in partnership with the Department of Education), which they’ll send to prospective students this year. Using this shopping sheet, you’ll be able to compare information, like average debt after graduation, side by side. If you don’t have a financial aid offer, we’ll show you where to find cost info for each school.

If you’re considering student loans to help you pay for school, you’re not alone – many students need loans to cover their full cost of attendance. If you have to take out student loans, comparing your options can help you find the student loan best suited for your needs.

We’re excited for your new adventure, and we know that choosing a college is a big deal.

Oh, and — congratulations!