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Reminder: 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. In light of recent closures of certain for-profit colleges, we wanted to share 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 by applying for a closed school discharge, which requires you to fill out a form.

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.

If you have private student loans

Generally, if you have private student loans, you may 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.

Save the date, Milwaukee!

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Join us for a field hearing in Milwaukee on student debt. The hearing will take place on Thursday, May 14 at 10 a.m. CDT. The event will be held at:

Wisconsin Center
400 W Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wis. 53203

The hearing will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.

This event is open to the public and requires an RSVP. Send us an email to RSVP. A live video will be streamed here on our blog.

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

See you there!

Updated on May 8, 2015 to include the venue information.

Special announcement for Corinthian students

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Along with the U.S. Department of Education, today we announced more than $480 million in forgiveness for borrowers who took out Corinthian College’s high-cost private student loans. ECMC Group, the new owner of a number of Corinthian schools, will not operate a private student loan program for seven years and agreed to a series of new consumer protections.

As part of today’s announcement, we’re also releasing a special bulletin for current and former students enrolled at Corinthian-owned schools with more information. We urge you to read it carefully so you fully understand your options and obligations on your student loans.

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.

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

Seeking answers for struggling student loan borrowers

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Thousands of borrowers have told us their stories on how they manage tough times with their student loans. Some students ended up borrowing much more than they expected in order to complete their degree, often because a parent lost a job in the midst of the financial crisis. Others had a tough time finding a job after graduation, making student loan payments difficult to afford.

Many borrowers have found help through income-driven repayment plans, where your payment is capped as a portion of your income. In the past year, more than one million student loan borrowers signed up for income-driven repayment plans on their Federal Direct student loans – an increase of 64 percent.

Too many private student loan borrowers are trapped

The private student loan market boomed in the years leading up to the financial crisis, where many lenders aggressively marketed loans and quickly sold them to investors. While these practices have subsided, too many borrowers with these loans find themselves out of luck and out of options. Unlike federal loans, most borrowers with private student loans don’t have flexible repayment options when they run into trouble. They report receiving very little information or help when they get in trouble, that there are no affordable loan modification options available, and that the alternatives to default are temporary at best.

Last year, Director Richard Cordray and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, along with senior officials from across the government, brought together the nation’s largest student lenders and servicers. We urged them to develop more options to help borrowers avoid default and increase the likelihood of full repayment.

Will student lenders and servicers make a deal?

Today, we’re asking several players in the student loan industry to find out what progress they’ve made. We’re looking to find out what loan modification options lenders and servicers provide, how customers can learn about their repayment options, and how borrowers can get approved. This effort also complements the work of the CFPB and our other regulators to help prevent repayment problems for future borrowers.

Borrowers across the country have told us that they aren’t looking to get off the hook, they just need a payment plan that they can afford. One borrower told us:

“I have no options left in regard to lowering my payment, forbearance, deferment or delaying my payments. I work full time as a teacher, but my student loan payment is more than a third of my income. My [specialty student loan company] just told me that there is nothing I can do but let my private loans go into default and to try to work something out with the collections agency. I have no qualms about paying a monthly fee that I can afford, but currently the money just does not exist.”

But many consumers have asked why their private student lenders won’t make a deal. After all, if lenders and servicers offered lower payments during a tough time, borrowers could avoid default and lenders could get fully repaid over the long run – a “win-win” for all.

In addition, several industry players have shared with us that they are willing to make deals with borrowers and will be launching new programs. But even today, many borrowers still have questions about these new repayment plans: What are the options? How do I enroll? Will other lenders offer similar repayment options?

The inquiry we are launching today can help us get to the bottom of these questions. Here’s an example of the information request that we’re issuing.

If you need student loan help today

If you’re in trouble today, check out our advice for borrowers. You can find a sample letter you can send to your student loan servicer to help get clear options – if they exist – on how to avoid default.

To learn more about other options when repaying private and federal student loans, check out Repay Student Debt. If you still need help resolving a student loan issue, like a surprise default or a payment processing mistake, submit a complaint.

When we hear back from the student loan industry on their efforts, we’ll be sure to update you.

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

A New Year’s resolution to conquer your student debt

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Each year, nearly 5 million college students leave school with student debt. For most of them who graduated this past spring, their six-month “grace period” just ended and those first bills have just have arrived.

For all of you faced with student loan payments and crafting New Year’s resolutions to conquer your debt, we’ve put together some tips to help you navigate through the noise.

Whether you’re just starting out or if you’re worried you’re in too deep, taking action today can help you save money, build your credit, and get you on the road to being debt-free.

For everyone

1. Know what you owe

Before you start, it will be helpful to have a list of your loans and the required monthly payment amounts. It’s very important to know the name of your servicer (the company that sends your student loan bill each month). This might be a different company from the original lender.

Check the national student loan data system
If you aren’t sure what kind of loans you have, visit the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) for Students and select “Financial Aid Review” for a list of all federal loans made to you. Click each individual loan to see who the servicer is for that loan (this is the company that collects payments from you).

Request a free credit report
Unlike federal student loans, there is not a single website that contains information about all of your private student loans. If you are unsure whether you have a private student loan, request a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Private student lenders may share information about your loans with credit reporting agencies even while you’re still in school or in deferment. You’ll need to contact each of your private student loan servicers to determine your total loan balance.

2. Automate and save

Consider contacting your loan servicer to set up auto-debit. Your servicer will automatically withdraw money from your bank account so you’re less likely to miss a payment. Many lenders offer an interest rate reduction for those who set up auto-debit, which could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. If you choose to sign up for auto-debit, make sure you have enough money in your bank account to cover your loan payment; otherwise you might get hit with overdraft fees or other penalties. You can cancel your auto-debit by contacting your servicer.

If you’re worried you’re in too deep

3. Enroll in an income-driven payment plan

There are a number of income-driven payment plans that can lower your monthly payment for your federal student loans.

Pay as you earn
If you graduated this year or later, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) is a newer repayment plan that is likely available for your federal student loans. The plan caps your monthly federal student loan payment at 10 percent of your discretionary income. To determine whether you qualify for PAYE, check out the Pay As You Earn calculator created by the U.S. Department of Education. Learn more at Ask CFPB.

Income-based repayment
If you have older loans, you should look into Income-Based Repayment (IBR). You can get a lower payment with IBR if your federal student loan debt is high relative to your income and family size. While your loan servicer will perform the calculation to determine your eligibility, you can use the U.S. Department of Education’s IBR calculator to estimate whether you would likely benefit from the IBR plan.

Many borrowers with federal Direct Loans can now enroll in IBR and PAYE online. Learn more at Ask CFPB.

4. Request repayment options for your private student loans

Although some companies are willing to help borrowers during a time of financial distress, unfortunately, not all private student loan companies offer assistance when consumers are struggling to repay their loans. We’ve created a sample letter that you can use to ask your lender or servicer to respond with accurate information about alternative repayment plans and loan modification options – potentially giving you valuable information on how to reduce your monthly payment or to temporarily postpone making payments.

We also published a sample financial worksheet for you to assess the amount of money you can put towards your loans. Some student loan companies request recent pay stubs or a bank statement to verify income and expenses, which you should consider attaching to your letter or e-mail.

Other things to think about

5. Sign up for loan forgiveness

We estimate that more than 25 percent of the U.S. labor force works in public service. This includes teachers, librarians, firefighters, military personnel, law enforcement, first responders, nurses, and social workers. There are a number of special loan repayment and forgiveness programs to assist student loan borrowers working in public service. Check our guides for servicemembers, teachers, and other public servants.

We also created a toolkit for public service employers with everything they need to help their employees tackle their student debt. The best way to get your employer on board is to ask! Get started.

6. Protect yourself from co-signer surprises

We published a report this year that describes complaints we received from borrowers who were placed in default, even though their loans were in good standing which can happen if a co-signer (typically a parent or a grandparent) died or filed for bankruptcy.

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 may want to ask about this benefit and remove your co-signer as soon as you are eligible. To help you get started, we’ve put together a sample letter that you can send to your student loan servicer.

7. Try to refi

If you have graduated, obtained a job, and have excellent credit, you may be able to qualify to refinance your existing private student loans with a new private loan at a lower rate. Unfortunately for many in this situation, there are only a small handful of financial institutions that offer this financial product. Learn more at Ask CFPB.

8. Avoid unnecessary interest if you’re paying extra

Since many borrowers can’t refinance, one of the only ways to avoid paying unnecessary interest is to pay your high-rate loans off more quickly. You can send this sample letter to your servicer to ask them to direct any extra payments toward your highest-rate loan, which may save you hundreds of dollars or more in extra interest payments.

9. Submit a complaint if you’re having trouble

If you’re facing inconsistent information, poor customer service, or any other issue with your student loan servicer or a debt collector, you can submit a complaint to us. We’ll forward your complaint to the company and work to get a response from them. Visit consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call us at (855) 411-2372.

If you’re just getting started and want to learn more about your repayment options, you can also try out our Repay Student Debt web tool.

Remember, missing payments on your federal or private student loans can hurt your credit rating and your financial future. Missing a single payment on a student loan can result in late fees, additional interest charges, and can increase the cost of repayment. Taking action today could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Make this new year one where you take control of your student loans and get on the path to be debt-free.

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

Sunshine for college credit card agreements

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Today, we’re releasing a report that looks at deals between financial institutions and colleges to market credit cards to students. Congress requires credit card companies to provide data on these agreements to the CFPB each year, and further requires the CFPB to look at these arrangements in an annual report.

This year we found that there are fewer schools marketing credit cards, and those that do are not making their agreements with credit card companies readily accessible to students.

College debit and prepaid card agreements have surpassed the number of credit card agreements

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 placed new restrictions on marketing credit cards to college students, and requires schools and credit card companies to disclose these agreements publicly. In 2009, there were more than a thousand such agreements in effect. By the end of last year, the number had fallen to 336. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2013 there were at least 852 schools that had agreements to market debit or prepaid cards to students.

At the end of 2013, there were about 950,000 credit card accounts open under the terms of these agreements. At the end 2009, before the relevant provisions of the CARD Act took effect, there were more than 2 million such accounts. Payments by credit card companies to schools in connection with credit card marketing also declined from nearly $85 million in 2009 to under $43 million in 2013.

Bank of America is the dominant issuer in this market with four times as many credit card agreements in effect in 2013 as its closest competitor. The bank had more than 80 percent of all accounts open under such agreements with schools as of the end of 2013.

Most credit card agreements are with alumni associations

The number of new accounts originated in a given year has increased since 2012. Nearly three-quarters of this new account growth is accounted for by agreements between issuers and alumni associations, indicating that most new accounts likely are issued to alumni, not to students.

Schools may not be making their credit card agreements readily accessible to students

Today’s report also takes a look at how transparent colleges are being about these agreements. Credit card issuers are required to provide prior year agreements to the Bureau, but the law requires colleges and universities to disclose all their credit card agreements, including those currently in effect.

Our analysis shows that most colleges aren’t making it easy for students and the public to learn about what deals are in effect. Just seven of the 35 schools we looked at provided clear information on their websites to find this information. Using a reasonable search protocol, we were unable to locate online any information about such agreements for the remaining 80 percent of our school sample.

To evaluate the accessibility of agreements in the public domain, we identified schools with the largest number of total accounts and the largest enrollment from our agreement database – yielding 35 distinct schools with a combined total of over half a million students.

Next, we created a basic online search methodology to see if we could find the marketing deals – or information about how to obtain them – using a commercial search engine, the sitemap of the institution’s website, and, when it existed, the search engine function on the school website. We found that the overwhelming majority of schools provided no information on their website regarding the agreement. Only one of every five schools provided a link to their marketing deal or online guidance on how to obtain their marketing agreement with a credit card issuer.


Accessibility of agreements on school websites

80 percent of schools offer no website disclosure or guidance for requesting agreements. 14.3 percent offer guidance on their website on how to obtain the agreement. 5.7 percent disclose the agreement on their websites.

More transparency is needed

The CARD Act public disclosure requirement is limited to credit cards and doesn’t include other financial products marketed through schools. We have also called on financial institutions to publicly disclose agreements with schools to market other financial products to students, like debit cards, prepaid cards, and bank accounts. Making these agreements available for all financial products can help bring needed transparency to this market.

Get an in-depth view of this data by checking out the report.

Interested in whether your school or alma mater has a marketing deal with a credit card issuer? Check out our College Credit Card Agreement Database.

Have a problem with your credit card or other financial product? You can submit a complaint online or call (855) 411-2372.