Business and Finance

Navient says it will stop servicing government-owned student loans


one of many nation’s largest student-loan corporations, plans to stop servicing government-owned student loans, the company said Tuesday. 

Jack Remondi, the corporate’s chief govt officer, vowed a “smooth transition for borrowers and employees.”  

But the announcement comes just a few months earlier than student-loan funds and collections are set to renew in February and marks the fourth time a servicer has mentioned they will exit their federal student-loan contract up to now yr, complicating the daunting operational activity earlier than the Department of Education and student mortgage companies of turning all the system again on for the primary time.  

“The transition to repayment seemed impossible,” even earlier than Navient’s announcement, mentioned Persis Yu, the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project on the National Consumer Law Center. “I don’t know realistically how the system prepares for all of these changes that are going to be happening simultaneously.”  

Announcement comes after years of scrutiny

Navient’s choice to stop servicing government-owned student loans comes after years of critics pointing to student-loan servicers — and Navient particularly — as a supply of the nation’s rising student-loan downside. Though the challenges debtors face repaying their student loans have many causes, together with rising tuition, client advocates and a few lawmakers have mentioned servicers like Navient exacerbated those challenges by throwing obstacles in the way in which of debtors receiving aid they’re entitled to. 

Navient has confronted lawsuits from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a number of other state attorneys general accusing the corporate of steering debtors in direction of unnecessarily pricey compensation packages, amongst different allegations. Navient has called these claims “false and demonstrably so.” 

To Seth Frotman, who was the student mortgage ombudsman on the CFPB when the bureau filed its swimsuit towards Navient, the truth that fewer debtors will be uncovered to Navient’s conduct because of the corporate’s exit is “good news.” 

“It’s important to remember Navient’s dismal track record which is just littered with accounts of them ripping off borrowers,” mentioned Frotman, who’s now the manager director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group. 

Still, he mentioned, the corporate must be held accountable, even when they’re exiting their contract. 

There is a few indication that the Biden-era Department of Education will be taking a tricky method to student-loan corporations. Richard Cordray, the chief working officer of the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, mentioned in a speech earlier this month, that officers made clear to servicers throughout current contract negotiations that “performance and accountability metrics are key objectives,” for the company. 

That Navient and different servicers, “looked at this new reality in which laws are going to be enforced and borrowers are going to be protected, took their ball and went home shows you how bad it has been for the last years and decades,” Frotman mentioned.

Servicers say economics of the contract has made the enterprise troublesome

Increased scrutiny of student-loan corporations — together with at the state level — mixed with the difficult economics of student-loan servicing could clarify largely why so many servicers are exiting their contracts, mentioned Scott Buchanan, the manager director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, a commerce group. 

He mentioned the federal government “really needs to take a hard look” at whether or not “they’re paying enough to get the level of customer service that these borrowers deserve.” That mixed with criticism over points that he mentioned are extra associated to the difficult legal guidelines surrounding the student-loan program than servicer conduct, creates “a really challenging environment,” for servicers.

Two-thirds of the big corporations servicing student loans have exited the student-loan market, and that “speaks volumes” about “how incredibly broken it is,” Yu mentioned. But she famous that in contrast to servicers, debtors don’t have the choice to go away it behind. 

Concerns over Navient’s proposed alternative

Yu mentioned she’s additionally troubled that Navient was capable of basically choose its personal alternative. The firm introduced that it plans to switch its servicing contract and far of the employees on Navient’s Department of Education servicing group to Maximus. Maximus already works with the Department of Education managing servicing for debtors in default. 

The firm is at present facing a lawsuit from Yu’s group alleging the corporate continued to grab the wages and tax refunds of scammed college students who had submitted functions to have their federal debt discharged. Maximus didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the swimsuit. 

Given the scale of Navient’s portfolio — as of March 2021 it serviced billions of {dollars} value of loans for six million debtors — and the tumult within the student-loan system, there are possible few choices out there to take over the corporate’s contract. 

“Our student loan system is too big to fail,” Yu mentioned. “What option does FSA have but to agree?”

The proposed settlement between Navient and Maximus is topic to approval by the Office of Federal Student Aid. In a press release, Cordray mentioned the workplace has been monitoring the negotiations between Navient and Maximus for “some time.” 

“FSA is reviewing documents and other information from Navient and Maximus to ensure that the proposal meets all legal requirements and properly protects borrowers and taxpayers,” Cordray mentioned within the assertion. “We remain committed to making sure that our federal student-loan servicing agreements provide more accountability, meaningful performance measures, and better service for borrowers.” 

To advocates like Yu, the exit of servicers and the precarious place of debtors in these shake ups is an indication that it’s time for a contemporary begin for the student-loan system. 

“This really points to why we need to cull the student-loan portfolio, we need widespread debt cancellation,” Yu mentioned. 

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