- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Borrowers who default on their student loans are pursued aggressively by the Department of Education and private debt collectors, facing garnished wages, withheld IRS tax returns, and decreased Social Security payments, Reuters reported.
“We treat struggling student-loan borrowers the same as deadbeat parents and tax cheats,” Seth Frotman, a senior member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), told Reuters. “Even gambling addicts have more protections.”
Since 2015, $3 billion in garnished wages and $4.8 billion in seized tax refunds and Social Security benefits have been collected from defaulted borrowers, according to Reuters.
Many of the 8 million borrowers currently in default on their loans are among the most financially vulnerable in society – and state and federal regulators allege that loan servicers intentionally point them away from affordable repayment plans, Reuters reported.
The CFPB filed a lawsuit in early 2017 against Navient, the largest student-loan servicer in the US, claiming it added $4 billion in student loan debt by failing to offer income-based repayment plans to distressed borrowers. Instead, Navient repeatedly pushed borrowers toward forbearance, which is less costly for the company, but potentially more expensive for the borrower in the long run.
Several state attorneys general have since filed similar suits.
A spokesperson for Navient told Business Insider that they work hard to reach customers to help them enroll in repayment options and avoid delinquency and default. “We promote awareness of repayment options 154-170 million times annually to our 10 million federal loan customers,” according to the spokesperson. “However, 90 percent of federal loan borrowers who default have not responded to our outreach.”