The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking to gather input on private student loans from borrowers and lenders, a policy Boston University faculty and students said will bring beneficial reform and lead to fewer student loan defaults.
“The data are pretty clear that students are stuck with huge amounts of loans and then they default on it,” Sambuddha Ghosh, an economics professor. “Reform is a good start to helping graduates.”
When unable to pay off student loans, the consumer has no choice but to default, Ghosh said. This is problematic for the borrower, who damages his or her credit history, and for the lender, who loses a substantial amount of money.
CFPB officials announced a report outlining their plans, titled “Request for Information Regarding an Initiative to Promote Student Loan Affordability,” to find options that would make private student loans more available and affordable to students Thursday.
CFPB officials are attempting to make student loans more affordable by requesting information and suggestions from the public, said Rohit Chopra, the student loan ombudsman for CFPB in a Thursday news conference.
“This effort complements existing productive discussions with student lenders and services, many of whom see repayment flexibility as a way to better serve their customers and get fully repaid,” Chopra said. “We hope to hear further input on how to promote affordable repayment options and stem the tide of student loan distress, delinquency, and default.”
Of 2,857 total student loan complaints listed in CFPB’s report, 46 percent of students and graduates listed complaints against Sallie Mae. American Education Services, Citibank and Wells Fargo received 12 percent, 8 percent and 7 percent of the complaints respectively.
Private lenders offer few options other than graduated repayment, meaning the payments increase as the years pass, which decreases the monthly payment but effectively increases the total interest paid by the borrower, Chopra said. CFPB officials hope to recommend alternatives based on the public’s response to their request.
“Unfortunately, while debt burdens for students have increased, wages for new college graduates have not,” Chopra said. “When adjusting for inflation, wages have actually slipped for new college grads according to some data.”
CFPB officials are collecting the public’s opinions until April 8, at which point they hope to have enough information to make recommendations for policy changes, possibly on that very same day, Chopra said.
“There have been — in other contexts in other consumer financial markets — different types of repayment options, such as temporary offers of interest-only payments or temporary repayment schedules where interest rate reductions are offered,” said Chopra. “These and other types of options may or may not be applicable to this market, and that’s a key goal of what we want to learn in this information request.”
Students in particular treat private loans with mistrust, though they acknowledge sometimes they are a last resort, said Kyle Spindelman, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
“I’m glad I don’t have to have any [loans] from banks because the interest rates on those are ridiculous,” Spindelman said.
Caitlin Coons, a School of Education sophomore, said she had to begin paying off one of her loans earlier than expected so she could finish school with as little debt as possible.
“I wish there was a different system for it, but it’s just the way it is,” Coons said. “There isn’t much we can do other than pay.”
Krutika Hosur, a College of Engineering junior, said dealing with private loans has not been a problem for her because her finances are organized, but she believes the loan system needs to be changed.
“It definitely needs reform because the cost of college in general should be such a burden,” Hosur said. “They are a private institution and they have costs to cover, but if they’re going to offer an education and charge $60,000 for it, there should be a lot more benefits than what is offered by financial institutions currently.”