Our Take on Interest Rate Deal, Other News

Our Take on the Federal Student Loan Interest Rate Deal

Last week the Senate passed compromise interest rate legislation that's expected to pass the House this week and become law. While it lowers federal student loan rates for borrowers taking out loans this year, it's more of a missed opportunity than a cause for celebration, as we said in a widely covered statement. That's because it's projected to cost students and families more over time than if Congress had done nothing at all after interest rates doubled on subsidized Stafford loans.

We thank the thousands of you who asked Congress to make student loans more affordable – not less – for today's students and tomorrow's. Without your voices, the outcome could have cost students far more. And as many in Congress have pointed out, the new policy is permanent until changed. The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a crucial opportunity to revisit student loan policy in the context of higher education reform as a whole.

Read our blog post on the Senate compromise

Federal Regulators Encourage Lenders to Help Private Loan Borrowers

In better news on private loans, last week federal bank regulators issued a joint statement encouraging private education lenders to help struggling borrowers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also assured lenders that they won't criticize them for modifying loans in ways that make the loans easier for financially stressed borrowers to repay.

If you or anyone you know is struggling to repay a private education loan, now's the time to ask for a loan modification or other help – even if the lender rejected similar requests before. And if the lender says it still can't do anything, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Read the agencies' joint statement

File a complaint with the CFPB

House Bill Would Repeal and Block Student and Taxpayer Protections

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently approved a bill (H.R. 2637) that would prevent the Department of Education from addressing waste, fraud, and abuse in career education programs, college recruiting, and other areas. A broad coalition of more than three-dozen organizations working on behalf of students, consumers, veterans, faculty and staff, civil rights, and college access and affordability - including TICAS - strongly opposes the bill. As noted in the coalition letter, the bill would "require Washington to turn a blind eye to how billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded student aid are being abused." Among other things, it would block any regulations on gainful employment and create loopholes in the ban on incentive compensation.

The full House may vote on the bill after the August recess. Meanwhile, the Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking process for new gainful employment rules is proceeding with the first meeting scheduled for September 9-11. TICAS will keep advocating for protections for students and taxpayers, and we'll keep you informed about ways to weigh in.

Read the coalition letter opposing H.R. 2637

Community Colleges — and the U.S. Department of Education — Must Make Access to Federal Loans a Priority

For college students who need to borrow, including community college students, federal student loans are the safest and most affordable choice. However, in just the past two weeks, media outlets have confirmed that three more community colleges in two states have decided to stop offering federal loans. These colleges say they fear their federal loan default rates may rise so high that the schools could be sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education as a result.

In all cases, high default rates mean that the college should do more to help their borrowers avoid default. But schools where only small shares of students borrow, which include many community colleges, are afforded special protection against sanctions. Unfortunately, too few community college administrators are aware of the protection, even at the schools most likely to benefit. Our new blog post makes clear why the U.S. Department of Education should be taking steps to address this and what those steps are.

Read our blog post on loan participation and protections for colleges with low borrowing rates