Borrowers with defaulted federal student loans received a rare bit of good news last week: the Obama administration put an end to a policy that improperly enticed loan collection companies to demand excessive payments from borrowers to “rehabilitate” their loans.
Starting this month, the U.S. Department of Education is providing a flat rate commission to the nearly two dozen firms with which it contracts to collect on defaulted loans. These companies will now make the same amount of fees regardless of whether they get a borrower to pay back $5, $50, or $250 per month.
Under federal law, borrowers who default can rehabilitate their loans if they make nine “reasonable and affordable” payments on-time over ten months – clearing their credit records and making them once again eligible for federal student aid. The statute bars collection agencies from demanding minimum payments based on the original loan amounts. Instead, they are supposed to take a borrower’s financial circumstances into account when determining how much that individual can handle each month.
The Education Department’s policy, however, encouraged collectors to demand larger payments than borrowers were legally obligated to pay. According to Bloomberg News, which was the first to report on the Department’s changed policy, here’s how it worked: