Delaware State University will use Biden’s stimulus to cancel over $700,000 in student debt

Student Debt
  • Delaware State University will cancel over $700,000 in student debt for pandemic financial hardships.
  • This amounts to about $3,276 in cancelation for each eligible students, which encompass recent graduates.
  • The university is using Biden’s stimulus funds to deliver this financial relief to its students.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued guidance in March allowing colleges and universities to use funds from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan for a variety of student needs, including grants and scholarships.

Delaware State University (DSU) has decided to use those funds to cancel student debt.

On Wednesday, DSU officials announced they would be canceling up to $730,655 in student debt for recently graduated students who faced financial hardships during the pandemic. Antonio Boyle, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management, estimated that the average eligible student would qualify for about $3,276 in student debt relief.

“Too many graduates across the country will leave their schools burdened by debt, making it difficult for them to rent an apartment, cover moving costs, or otherwise prepare for their new careers or graduate school,” Boyle said in a statement. “While we know our efforts won’t help with all of their obligations, we all felt it was essential to do our part.”

The university’s president, Tony Allen, noted in the announcement that DSU hasn’t raised its tuition in over six years, it gives every incoming student an iPad or a Macbook, and it’s transitioning its textbooks to less expensive online versions, showing how debt cancelation aligns with the university’s efforts to keep college affordable.

Cardona’s March guidance said that higher education institutions can use stimulus funding for “financial aid grants to dual enrollment, continuing education, non-degree seeking, or non-credit students, as well as to a broad range of students with exceptional needs, such as certain refugees or persons granted asylum,” along with discharging unpaid institutional student debt.

“Many students have had their postsecondary careers turned upside down as they manage their schoolwork while also protecting themselves from this virus,” Cardona said in a statement. “We hope every eligible student takes advantage of these benefits while continuing to focus on their studies.”

While DSU is exercising its authority to forgive institutional debt – debt owed directly to the university, rather than to the government or a private lender – federal student loan debt currently amounts to $1.7 trillion in the US. The Education and Justice Departments are reviewing Biden’s authority to cancel federal debt, but the president has not yet announced a timeline for doing so.

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A student-loan forgiveness program for public-service workers has a 98% denial rate. 56 Democrats say it’s time for Biden to fix it.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

  • 56 Democrats urged Education Sec. Miguel Cardona to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
  • The letter cited its high denial rate, with fewer than 2.5% of eligible applicants being approved.
  • Biden campaigned on fixing the program to give public service workers needed relief.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden campaigned on reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which he – along with many lawmakers in past years – said is failing borrowers due to its low approval rate.

His campaign website said: “Biden will see to it that the existing Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is fixed, simplified, and actually helps teachers.”

On Wednesday, 56 Democratic lawmakers urged Biden to follow through on his promise.

Senate and House Democrats, led by Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, wrote a letter to Biden’s Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stressing the need to improve the PSLF program to give public servants the loan forgiveness they deserve.

The PSLF program allows government and nonprofit employees with federally backed student loans to apply for loan forgiveness after proof of 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, but 98% of all borrowers from the general public have been rejected from the program.

“After the first round of forgiveness initially became available to PSLF borrowers more than three years ago, approval rates for the program have remained below 2.5%,” the letter said. “The program has been beset by numerous ‘donut holes’ that disqualify certain types of loans, repayment plans and the payments themselves, leading to extraordinary confusion and distrust of the PSLF program and, by extension, the federal government.”

The lawmakers urged Cardona to waive barriers in PSLF, including to:

  • Expand the definition of an “eligible loan” to include all federal student loans;
  • Make all repayment plans eligible for PSLF;
  • Waive the restriction that requires a borrower to be in public service at the time of loan forgiveness;
  • And establish data-sharing agreements with the Dept. of Defense and Office of Personnel management to automatically identify public service workers with outstanding student debt.

The letter also called for extensive communication from the Education Department to borrowers to ensure they are aware of any changes that might impact loan forgiveness.

In past weeks, lawmakers from both parties have introduced legislation to reform the PSLF program. Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire introduced the Recognizing Military Service in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Act, which allows service members who deferred their student loan payments while deployed to count that period of time toward their PSLF progress.

This followed a a Government Accountability Office report that found that 287 Dept. of Defense personnel had received loan forgiveness as of January 2020, while 5,180, or 94% of DOD borrowers, were denied. Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement calling the findings, and PSLF, “nothing short of a disaster.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was sued multiple times over the program’s high denial rate.

Sarbanes said on Twitter: “We must ensure that America’s teachers, social workers, public defenders, service members and community health care workers – along with many other public servants – receive the student loan forgiveness they have earned.”

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The Elizabeth Warren ally just picked to oversee US student loans could help make her debt-cancelation dream come true

Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

  • Former CFPB head Richard Cordray will lead the Federal Student Aid office, which oversees student debt.
  • Elizabeth Warren helped create the CFPB and was key in nominating Cordray when she couldn’t helm the agency.
  • Warren wants to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person and Cordray has shared her agenda for much of his political career.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Since she was elected to the Senate almost a decade ago, Elizabeth Warren has been fighting to cancel student debt and hold loan servicers accountable. Now one of her closest allies is in charge of the federal student debt pile, and that could be a big deal.

Richard Cordray, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), was selected to head the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) on Monday. Few people in Washington DC are better placed to carry out Warren’s vision of mass student-debt relief. That’s because Cordray took the job Democrats wanted Warren to have.

When Warren was a Harvard professor (and occasional blogger), she frequently cited problems within the student-loan system and the need to create something like the CFPB, which would protect consumers financially and ensures they are being treated fairly. That turned into a new federal agency created under President Barack Obama, who wanted Warren to lead it, but in 2011, Senate Republicans blocked her appointment. She ran for Senate instead, becoming a national figure, while Cordray became a close ally as the first head of the CFPB.

During her time in the Senate, Warren worked with Cordray’s bureau to conduct investigations into predatory lending practices. Now as head of the FSA, Cordray will be tasked with overseeing the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio through disbursing loans and grants, along with monitoring student-loan servicers and implementing relief and repayment programs.

@RichCordray was a fearless @CFPB leader who forced big financial institutions to return $12 billion to people they cheated,” Warren wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I’m very glad he’ll be protecting student borrowers and bringing much-needed accountability to the federal student loan program.”

AP21123748572443
Richard Cordray.

What Cordray could do on student debt

In a statement after his appointment was announced, Cordray said he was looking forward to creating “more pathways for students to graduate and get ahead, not be burdened by insurmountable debt.”

He will be tasked with sorting through claims from thousands of defrauded borrowers who filed for debt relief, along with ensuring the smooth implementation of loan collections once the pause on student loan payments through September is lifted – although Cardona said on Monday that extending the payment pause is “not out of the question.

While Cordray has not yet commented on wiping out $50,000 in student debt for each borrower, which Democrats continue to call for, he told MarketWatch last year that under the Biden administration, he expected the CFPB and the Education Department to work more closely on student-loan issues.

At the CFPB during the Obama years, Cordray made oversight of student loan servicers his priority. The agency has returned more than $75o million to student loan borrowers since 2011 over debt collection complaints, and in early 2017, the bureau sued Navient, the largest student loan servicer in the US, in a lawsuit that is still ongoing, arguing that Navient misled students into taking on loans they cannot pay off.

At a late April hearing, Warren called for the government to fire Navient, and for Navient to fire its chief executive officer, after accusing Navient for over a decade of abusing the student loan system.

In 2019, Cordray wrote a guest essay in The Plain Dealer, an Ohio newspaper, speaking out against for-profit colleges. “I hate how these hollowed-out businesses and subpar colleges are cheating consumers, employees and whole communities,” Cordray wrote.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has already canceled some debt for borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools, and Warren has conducted numerous investigations into the failures of the for-profits Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes.

The FSA head’s seat has been vacant since March, when Mark Brown, former head of the office appointed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in 2019, resigned amid pressure from labor groups and lawmakers. Warren wrote in a tweet that his resignation was “good for student borrowers.”

Cordray told Marketwatch in November that, as CFPB head, his approach with the Education Department had been one of “close cooperation” but “that was all nixed when Betsy DeVos came into office.” Speaking of the outlook for a Biden administration, he said he thought the CFPB and Education Department would likely go back to working closely together.

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Freezing student-loan payments saved just $2,000 per borrower, report finds

Average student loan balance
  • Student-loan payments are paused through September, with national savings of $82.7 billion on interest payments.
  • A report by Upgraded Points found this saved each borrower an average of $2,001 in interest.
  • California saved the most interest overall at over $8 billion – 10% of the national total.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden extended the pause on student loan payments through September 30, and while the inclusion of the 0% interest rate on those payments provided financial relief, it didn’t add up to much for the average individual.

A report released on April 5 by Upgraded Points – a travel research group – found that since student-loan payments were originally paused under the CARES Act in March, the average interest saved per borrower was $2,001, and the national average for principal paused per borrower was $34,971. The state that saved the most interest overall was California at over $8 billion (10% of the national total), with New York slightly behind at $5.2 billion in interest saved.

The report noted that while national averages and total state savings were high, “on an individual borrower level, average borrowers only saved a couple thousand dollars in interest over the 12 months. While those couple thousand dollars could have been imperative in keeping borrowers in the black during pandemic-related hardships, these borrowers are still far from climbing out of the holes they dug in college. “

When the report analyzed the states that saved the most interest per 100,000 people, DC, Georgia, and Maryland were the top three locales, which results from a combination of small populations and high savings. On the other hand, the top three states with the lowest savings per 100,000 people were Wyoming, Utah, and Alaska because although those states have smaller populations, they also generally have lower principal debts and therefore fewer interest savings.

Here are the other main findings of the report:

  • The national total interest savings is about $82.7 billion;
  • Similar to most interest saved per 100,000 people, DC, Georgia, and Maryland saved the most interest per borrower, as well;
  • And North Dakota, Iowa, and Wyoming were the states that saved the least amount of interest per borrower.
UP: National impact of student loan freeze
Via Upgraded Points, the national impact of the student loan freeze.

While the payment pause and interest freeze have been instrumental in helping borrowers financially during the pandemic, the student debt crisis still looms far beyond the pandemic, with 45 million Americans holding $1.7 trillion in student debt.

Biden has already acted on the crisis by canceling debt for borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools and borrowers with disabilities, but lawmakers and advocacy organizations continue to call for the president to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower to lift the debt burden.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is one of the leading lawmakers calling for student debt cancelation, and she said on Twitter on April 17 that borrowers need relief now.

“The whole student loan debt system is broken, and it’s placing a massive burden on tens of millions of people,” Warren said. “They need immediate relief. And we need big, structural change to make higher education within reach for every family.”

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36 civil rights organizations urge Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • In a letter, 36 civil rights organizations called on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person.
  • The letter said the student debt burden falls disproportionately on women and Black and Latino borrowers.
  • They want Biden to extend debt cancelation to all borrowers, including those with private loans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The American student-debt problem encompasses 45 million people with a combined $1.7 trillion of debt, and much of the burden falls on communities of color. Civil-rights organizations want President Joe Biden to change that by canceling $50,000 in student debt per person.

On Monday, 36 civil rights organizations, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released civil rights principles for student debt cancelation in an effort to encourage the Biden administration to act on racial, gender, disability, and wealth disparities in the country. They said these disparities have left borrowers “on the brink of financial devastation” simply because they sought a higher education, and the only solution is to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person.

“As we navigate the concurrent crises of systemic racism, a global health pandemic, and the resulting economic recession, it is more important than ever that we take bold action that benefits everyone, especially communities of color,” the organizations said. “Student debt cancellation will help Black and brown borrowers build wealth and enable our economy to move forward as millions of Americans are able to start families, buy homes, and set up small businesses.”

The letter, which was signed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), outlined five principles that student debt cancelation should abide by:

  1. Debt cancelation must extend to all borrowers, including those with private loans.
  2. Debt cancelation should extend to all sectors of institutions, including public, private, and for-profit schools.
  3. The debt cancelation process must be easy to navigate – if it’s too difficult, many borrowers will not be able to access relief.
  4. Debt cancelation should not negatively impact borrowers’ credit scores.
  5. Debt cancelation should come with policies to increase access and affordability in the US higher education system.

The letter noted that upon graduation, Black borrowers typically owe 50% more than white borrowers, and four years later, Black borrowers owe 100% more. Canceling $50,000 per borrower would eliminate student debt for 75% of all federal borrowers, including full cancelation for 85% of Black borrowers and 96% of Latino borrowers in the lowest income quintile.

Biden’s Education Department has already taken some steps to cancel student debt for certain groups of borrowers. On March 18, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona canceled $1 billion in student debt for about 72,000 borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools, and on March 29, Cardona canceled student debt for 41,000 borrowers with disabilities.

And to build on Biden’s payment pause on all federal student-loan payments through September, on March 30, Cardona expanded the pause to borrowers with loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, helping 1.14 million borrowers with private loans.

Biden has asked the Justice Department and Education Departmentt to review his ability to use executive powers to cancel $50,000 in debt per person. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in early April that Biden has not ruled out canceling that amount, although Biden had said in February that he “will not make that happen.

But Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts remain adamant that Biden can and must use his executive powers to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person.

“I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off,” Warren said in a press call last month. “The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”

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Student-loan borrowers are battling for relief even after Biden’s administration canceled $2.3 billion: ‘We were taken advantage of’

college graduation
  • Biden’s Education Department has canceled billions in student debt, but trillions remain outstanding.
  • Even if you qualify for relief, you may not know about it, or you could get a 0% rate of forgiveness.
  • Borrowers told Insider there’s a lack of clarity, and experts say much more needs to be done.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nearly 45 million people in the US have outstanding student-loan debt. That adds up to a $1.7 trillion problem.

President Joe Biden, who promised during his campaign to immediately tackle the crisis, has moved to do so via the Department of Education, clearing billions of dollars in debt in just a few months.

Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona, has canceled debt for about 72,000 borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools – about $1 billion worth – and moved to shake up how defrauded students go about loan forgiveness.

Cardona also waived a paperwork requirement to relieve loans for borrowers with disabilities. This affected 230,000 borrowers and canceled debt for 41,000 of them, providing $1.3 billion in student-loan relief.

But Biden hasn’t taken the actions he promised as a presidential candidate, which include canceling $10,000 in student debt per person. And while Cardona’s $2.3 billion in cumulative relief over three months might seem impressive, it comes to less than 0.2% of the outstanding student loans swimming through the system.

Finally, even if you qualify for debt relief, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it. Insider talked to borrowers directly affected by Cardona’s actions, and they’re not out of the woods yet. Experts say the student-debt crisis isn’t close to being seriously tackled.

The Education Department did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Defrauded borrowers still can’t get relief

After about five years of waiting, Alexander Cockerham was approved for student-loan forgiveness.

From 2007 to 2009, Cockerham, now 38, attended the for-profit ITT Technical Institute, where he got an associate’s degree. In 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued ITT, accusing it of deceiving investors about late-payment rates and student-loan defaults, and the federal government cut off its access to federal loans and grants. The institution shut down shortly afterward.

Cockerham told Insider that he took out about $42,000 in private and federal loans to attend the school. He’s paid off his private loans but still has about $26,000 in federal loans outstanding.

So he applied for student-loan forgiveness in late 2015 through the Department of Education’s “borrower defense to loan repayment” program. Cockerham got his verdict in 2020.

“I was told I was approved for student-loan forgiveness but at only at a certain rate, because they said they felt that I did receive some benefit from my education there and that I wasn’t completely defrauded,” he said.

His forgiveness rate was 0%. “So absolutely nothing was forgiven at all,” he said.

In September, 48 state attorneys general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau secured more than $330 million in private student-loan forgiveness for 35,000 former ITT Tech students.

If the full amount of his federal loans were relieved, Cockerham said, he’d try to finally buy a house. He’s been married for nearly a decade and just had his first child. He said he’d tried looking at homes in the past, “but that student-loan debt just hung heavy over my head.” It turned away financial servicers, who told him he needed to pay down more debt.

Alexander Cockerham
Alexander Cockerham.

How the government can decide on a 0% forgiveness rate

The Trump administration would compare a defrauded borrower’s income level to that of people in similar programs, alongside other factors, to determine how much of the loan to discharge. Betsy Mayotte, the president and founder of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors, said that led to some people being approved for the program but having 0% of their loans discharged, just like what happened to Cockerham.

Mayotte told Insider that the Trump administration “was very much opposed to the whole idea of borrower defense in the first place.” She said she’d worked with people who’ve been waiting three or four years for their applications to even be processed.

“To tell somebody, ‘Yup, we agree, you were defrauded by your school, and you still have to repay all of your debt’ is insane,” she said. “I mean, there’s no other industry where they do that.”

She said the recent action from the Biden administration made her “so happy,” as it would be going back and discharging the full amount of partial discharges. People who are still pending won’t be affected though, Mayotte said.

Cockerham, who might be affected by this latest discharge, said: “I’ve only seen what I’ve heard in the news. I haven’t heard anything from the newest secretary of [education] or the Biden administration.”

‘I wish that they would have someone that would go over this a little more in depth’

Joshua Kronemeyer, 27, still has student debt from spending a semester and a half at the Art Institute of Phoenix at 16 years old.

Just getting relief from those loans – racked up at a now defunct for-profit member of the Art Institutes – would cut his student-loan debt by a fifth, he told Insider.

“Honestly, I wish that they would have someone that would go over this a little more in depth, as far as the hole you’re digging yourself,” Kronemeyer said.

Joshua Kronemeyer
Joshua Kronemeyer.

Kronemeyer may be eligible to get his loans discharged; some former Art Institute students are eligible to get their loans canceled as the result of a lawsuit against the for-profit school and the Education Department. That suit argued that the department had illegally provided loans to Art Institute schools that weren’t accredited at the time, so borrowers shouldn’t have to pay them back.

Kronemeyer said that he was planning to look into debt relief soon but that he anticipated his application would be denied the first time around, since he’d heard of that happening to others in the same position.

Borrowers with disabilities who are eligible for relief struggle to access it

Cardona’s action to relieve the burden for borrowers with disabilities shook up a three-year monitoring program in which borrowers had to submit income information every year to show that they didn’t exceed a certain threshold.

Called the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge program, it would reinstate loans if a borrower’s income rose above that level or if the borrower failed to submit income information.

Laura Speake, 26, might qualify for the program. They told Insider that they had about $30,000 in debt in both federal and private loans. They left college after three years but hope to return and finish a degree. She hopes to someday go to grad school and work in the book industry, perhaps as a small-town librarian.

But she has a concern with getting the loans discharged under the program: It’s a disincentive for continuing education.

Laura staff photo
Laura Speake.

The Federal Student Aid website says that “if you are approved for TPD discharge based on SSA documentation or a physician’s certification, and you request a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant during your 3-year post-discharge monitoring period, you must resume repayment on the previously discharged loans.”

“I’m not lazy. I’m not looking for an easy way out,” Speake said. “You know, I want to work. I want to learn. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to do my part. I want to pull my weight.”

Experts told Insider that while Cardona’s action on the program was worthwhile, it shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.

Bethany Lilly, the director of income policy at The Arc, an organization advocating for people with disabilities, told Insider that the Social Security Administration already has information verifying people’s incomes, so there’s no reason the Education Department should have required that information.

The department has “some very confusing and illogical standards that really hurt the beneficiaries,” Lilly said.

To improve the process for forgiving student debt for borrowers with disabilities, Lilly said, the department should make it “as automatic as possible” and work with the SSA to permanently remove the requirement to provide income documentation.

Persis Yu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center and the director of its Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, told Insider that Cardona was correcting something that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

“I think it’s disappointing that when the suspension period was put in place in the first place that these borrowers weren’t captured,” Yu said, referring to the 41,000 borrowers who had missed their paperwork. “I’m not sure how that happened, but it seems pretty obvious in retrospect, right?”

Yu also said that the design of the program was flawed from the start. “The monitoring period itself is a huge problem and a huge barrier for people with disabilities that qualify for the program actually accessing the program,” she said. “So that is certainly again exacerbated by the pandemic, as so many things have been. But it is in itself just a feature that doesn’t work.”

A ‘massively unimpressive’ amount of canceled debt

Alan Collinge, the founder of Student Loan Justice, told Insider that compared with the scale of the student-debt crisis, canceling debt for defrauded borrowers and borrowers with disabilities is “massively unimpressive.”

“We’re in a pandemic, and we’ve lost tens of millions of jobs,” Collinge said. “The people who are hurt the worst tend to be the people who have student-loan debt.”

Democratic lawmakers have been keeping the pressure on Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who campaigned on the $50,000 figure, said in a press call last month that executive action was the quickest way to get it done.

In early April, Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, told Politico that the White House was “looking into” its legal authority to cancel $50,000 per person. Shortly afterward, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that option wasn’t being ruled out. And the Education Department released data requested by Warren showing that $50,000 cancellations would wipe out 84% of the federal student-debt pile.

Insider polling from February asked how much debt respondents would want canceled. The most popular option among the 1,154 respondents wasn’t Biden’s $10,000 proposal (19% supported that amount) or Warren’s $50,000 (13%), or no forgiveness at all (22%) – a quarter of the respondents said they supported forgiving all student loans.

As for Cockerham, he’s working in a job he landed while attending community college to study computer science, a program he turned to after his ITT degree didn’t bring him any job offers. His unpaid loans are still on his portal at Navient, the private entity the government has hired to manage some federally backed loans.

“We’re hard-working Americans, like everyone else. We were taken advantage of. And we feel that what was done to us was just completely unfair,” he said. “We need some help, and that forgiveness, for a lot of us, would just be a lifeline.”

On Tuesday, when Warren, as the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy, held her first hearing on student-debt relief, she invited Navient CEO John Remondi.

Citing a decade of allegations of abusive and misleading practices, she said, “The federal government should absolutely fire Navient, and because this happened under your leadership, Navient should fire you.”

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Elizabeth Warren says the government should fire student loan servicer Navient, which should fire its CEO

Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Navient CEO John Remondi should be fired at a hearing on Tuesday.
  • Navient, one of the largest student loan servicers, has been accused of misleading borrowers.
  • Remondi said the allegations are untrue and “not necessarily based on facts.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Navient CEO John Remondi was at Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts’ first hearing on student debt relief. Warren told Remondi that he should be fired for misleading student loan borrowers, but that wasn’t all.

“The federal government should absolutely fire Navient, and because this happened under your leadership, Navient should fire you,” Warren told Remondi during the hearing.

Warren, as the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy, called 11 witnesses to testify at the hearing to discuss the impact of student debt on borrowers, racial justice, and the economy.

Warren said in her letter to Remondi inviting him to testify at the hearing that while Navient currently services federal loans to 5.6 million borrowers and holds over $58 billion annually in federally guaranteed Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans, it also has “been a contributor to the problem, with a decade-long history of allegations of abusive and misleading practices aimed at student loan borrowers.”

She added that between 2009 and 2019, Navient has been accused or fined for “actions that ripped off borrowers,” including the improper marketing of loans and failing to notify borrowers of their rights.

And an ongoing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigation found evidence that Navient “systematically steered thousands of borrowers who were having difficulty paying their loans into plans that were worse for the borrowers – but more profitable for Navient.”

In February, three student loan borrowers filed a legal action against Navient, arguing that Navient owed them over $45,000 in overpayments that the company had wrongfully collected after their student loans had been discharged. This followed an Education Department ruling that Navient must repay the government $22 million in overcharged student loan subsidies.

In response to Warren’s questioning on investigations into Navient, Remondi said his job is “obviously to comply with the rules and laws, and we work hard to make sure all borrowers successfully manage their loans.”

“These allegations are not true,” Remondi said. “They’re accusations and not necessarily based on facts,” he added.

Also testifying at the hearing were Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, and James Steeley, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

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Biden could wipe out 84% of the federal student-debt pile by canceling $50,000 per person

student loans graduate
  • DOE data shows canceling $50,000 in student debt per person would erase debt for 84% of federal borrowers.
  • It shows that canceling $10,000 per person would erase debt for 35% of them, Yahoo Finance reports.
  • The DOE and DOJ are reviewing Biden’s authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for President Joe Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person, and new data from the Department of Education may have helped them make their case to the president.

A DOE analysis obtained by Yahoo Finance on Monday found that $50,000 in student-loan forgiveness per person would erase the entire debt for 36 million – or 84% – of the roughly 43 million borrowers in the US with federal loans, while $10,000 in forgiveness would erase the entire debt for 15 million – or 35% – of those borrowers.

The data also showed that 9.4 million of the 36 million borrowers who would benefit from a $50,000 loan cancelation are at risk of default, meaning they could fail to repay the loans. Also, 4.4 million borrowers, each holding an average of $48,000 in student debt, have had loans for more than two decades since graduation. Another 10.7 million borrowers have held their loans for over a decade.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have led efforts in calling on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person using executive powers, but the president has argued he does not have the authority to cancel $50,000, and he said he would welcome legislation to cancel $10,000 per person.

In response to Biden’s comments, Warren said in a press call last month: “We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things. I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”

Biden has since asked the Justice Department and the Education Department to review his authority to use executive action to cancel student debt, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in early April that the $50,000 cancelation figure hasn’t been ruled out.

The DOE data comes ahead of Warren’s Senate Banking hearing on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the burden of student debt.

“I graduated from a state school that cost $50 a semester,” Warren said on Twitter on Monday. “That opportunity is simply not out there today. Two out of every three people who go to a state school today have to borrow money to graduate. That is not how we build a future. #CancelStudentDebt.”

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Illinois could pay off up to $40,000 of your student loans to help you buy a house

House Sold
  • The Illinois SmartBuy program pays off up to $40,000 in student loans to help buyers buy a house.
  • The program also provides $5,000 to be used for a down payment or closing costs.
  • With house prices reaching record highs, the program may help increase home equity and affordability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you live in Illinois and have outstanding student loans, the state could pay off some of your debt to help you buy a house.

The SmartBuy program, offered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, helps anyone who wants to buy a home in Illinois by paying off up to $40,000 in student debt, or a loan amount equal to 15% of the home purchase price. According to the Chicago Tribune, between the start of the program in December and early April, it has paid off an average of $24,100 in student debt for each buyer, and people from outside the state have even been inclined to move there to make use of the program.

“I’m getting a lot of interest,” Chanon Slaughter, a vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, told the Tribune. “I am getting folks literally saying, ‘I want to move back to Chicago for this program.'”

Along with paying off student loans, the program also provides $5,000 that can be used for a down payment or closing costs.

There are a few catches, though: A buyer’s outstanding student debt must be paid in full at the time of the home purchase, and if the buyer chooses to sell the house within three years of the purchase, they must repay a portion of the student loan assistance. The other catch is that Illinois has allocated $25 million to the program, so it’s only expected to help between 600 and 1,000 homebuyers.

Here are the program’s eligibility requirements, according to its website:

  • The buyer must have at least $1,000 in student loans;
  • The buyer’s FICO “mid-score” must be 640 or higher;
  • The buyer’s income must be under or at the limits for the county where the property is located, which can be found on the IHDA mortgage website;
  • And the assistance cannot be applied retroactively – the buyer must be buying a new primary residence.

This program has the potential to tackle two simultaneous affordability crises – the $1.7 trillion pile of student debt and the skyrocketing price of the median house since the housing market reopened during the pandemic, exacerbated by a serious inventory shortage. It isn’t the only experimental economic program being offered in Illinois, either. Evanston, a city in Illinois, approved spending on March 22 for a $10 million reparations fund that compensated Black residents through $25,000 housing grants.

Insider previously reported that the average home sale price hit a record high March, and the spiking housing costs have concerned housing experts, like Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather, who said in a statement that they could be putting homeownership out of reach for too many Americans.

“That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society,” Fairweather said.

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White House press secretary says Biden hasn’t ‘ruled out’ canceling up to $50,000 in student debt

psaki briefing student debt
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the president’s stance on canceling student debt.
  • In her Monday briefing, Psaki said the White House is open to cancelling up to $50,000 per person.
  • However, she did not offer many specifics beyond that, including whether Biden supports it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki left the door open on Monday to a potential executive order that would cancel up to $50,000 of student debt per borrower.

Psaki was asked what President Joe Biden’s stance on the issue is after his chief of staff, Ron Klain, recently said Biden is looking into his “legal authority” to use executive action for such a move.

Biden’s press secretary reiterated his willingness to cancel up to $10,000 if it were done through legislation in Congress, but grew more cautious on details for the rest of her answer.

“I think that would naturally be the first step before it’s a larger amount beyond there,” Psaki said. “What Ron Klain was referring to is the fact that there’s an ongoing review.

“It’s both a policy review and a legal review – so Department of Education and Department of Justice – to look at what the options are, and what authority could be recommended to the president. So that was the process he’s referring to.”

Biden’s Department of Education has already moved to cancel billions in student debt, but in his messaging, the president has been more willing to go big on the economy writ-large rather than satisfying the urge from his left to do the same on student loan reforms.

Previously, Biden said he “will not make that happen” when asked about canceling up to $50,000 at a CNN town hall in February.

“His position hasn’t changed,” Psaki said during the briefing, avoiding any indication that the president is personally in favor of moving up to the $50,000 figure.

When a reporter followed up to point out Biden was previously against going that far, Psaki reiterated her previous answer.

“At the same time, we haven’t ruled out options, but that review is ongoing and there isn’t a conclusion on it,” she said.

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