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HERRING HIGHLIGHTS PROTECTIONS FOR VIRGINIA STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS

~ Protecting student borrowers has been a priority for Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section, which has recovered more than $10.3 million for more than 5,000 student borrowers ~

RICHMOND (March 6, 2019) – As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Mark R. Herring is highlighting protections and resources for student borrowers, as well as the work he and his team have done to protect Virginia student loan borrowers. Attorney General Herring and his team have reached multiple settlements with for-profit colleges for using deceitful tactics against student borrowers, as well as continuously challenged Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education in court to uphold the federal protections in place to protect student borrowers from predatory, for-profit schools. The Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $10.3 million for more than 5,000 student borrowers in Virginia.

“Over the past few years, we have seen the Trump Administration fail to protect student borrowers, instead implementing policies that have favored for-profit colleges who take advantage of them to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring. “My Consumer Protection Section and I will continue to fight against policies that harm student borrowers and hold for-profit colleges accountable when they mislead and deceive their students.”

In October 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that a federal judge rejected the Trump Administration’s challenge to the Borrower Defense Rule, ordering its immediate implementation for students nationwide. This ruling followed a victory Attorney General Herring won in federal court after he and a coalition of state attorneys general challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind its Borrower Defense Rule which was designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. The immediate implementation of the Borrower Defense rule meant that the U.S. Department of Education had to automatically discharge $381 million in loans for students whose schools closed.

Attorney General Herring has taken major actions against for-profit colleges for misleading students. In November 2015, for-profit education companyEducation Management Corporation announced it would significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgive more than $2.29 million in loans for approximately 2,000 former students in Virginia through an agreement with the Attorney General and a group of state attorneys general. Nationwide, the agreement required the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.

In December 2016, the Attorney General announced that more than 5,000 Virginia students formerly enrolled in schools operated by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. may be eligible for loan forgiveness. This came after the U.S Department of Education found that Corinthian College and its subsidiaries published misleading job placement rates for many programs between 2010 and 2014. Following this announcement, Attorney General Herring urged Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to follow through on their commitment to cancel student debt for students in Virginia and around the country who were victimized by Corinthian Colleges' practices.

Attorney General Herring announced in January of this year that he and 48 other attorneys general reached a settlement with for-profit education company Career Education Corporation. The terms of the settlement required CED to reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting about $493.7 million in debts owed by 179,529 students nationally. In Virginia, 3,094 students will receive relief totaling $8,022,178.

Below are some tips for student loan borrowers to keep in mind:

(1) Financing Options

  • Check First for Grants and Scholarships – Resources include:

  • the financial aid office at a college or career school

  • a high school or TRIO counselor

  • the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool

  • federal agencies

  • your state

  • your library

  • foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups

  • organizations related to your field of interest, like professional associations

  • ethnicity-based organizations

  • your employer or your parents’ employers

  • Evaluate Whether Private or Federal Loans Are Right for You:

  • Federal Loans Include:

  • Direct Loans, where the U.S. Department of Education is the lender;

  • Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), where private lenders make loans backed by the federal government;

  • Federal Perkins Loans, low-interest federal student loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need; and

  • PLUS loans, federal loans that graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college or career school.

  • Private loans, sometimes called “alternative loans,” are offered by private lenders, like banks and credit unions, and do not include the benefits and protections that come with federal loans.

  • Review the Federal Trade Commission’s Comparison of Federal and Private Loans at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/1028-student-loans.

 (2) Paying Back Your Student Loans

  • Federal Loans

  • The U.S. Department of Education has repayment programs that can ease the burden of paying for your education, including:

  • income-driven repayment plans — your monthly payment is based on how much money you make

  • deferment and forbearance — you can postpone making payments, if there’s a good reason you can’t repay right away, though interest might cause what you owe to increase

  • loan forgiveness or loan discharge — in some circumstances, you don’t have to repay some or all of your loans. You might qualify if, for instance, you work for a government or not-for-profit organization, if you become disabled, or if your school closed or committed fraud. Also, under certain income-driven repayment plans, any balance that remains after 20 or 25 years of payments is forgiven. In some cases, you may owe income taxes on the forgiven or discharged amount.

  • Learn more at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans.

  • Private Loans

  • With private student loans, you typically have fewer repayment options, especially when it comes to loan forgiveness or cancellation. To explore your options, contact your loan servicer directly. If you don’t know who your private student loan servicer is, look at a recent billing statement.

  • Free Federal Loan Consolidation

  • Consolidating federal loans with the federal government is FREE. There are companies that may offer to help you consolidate your federal loans with the federal government, for a fee, but you DON’T have to pay for this service. Consolidating with the federal government is a process you can do on your own, at no cost.

  • Review the Federal Trade Commission’s recommendations on whether loan consolidation is right for you athttps://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/1028-student-loans.

  • Avoid Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

  • Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness.

  • NEVER pay an up-front fee for help.

  • Scammers will often fake a government seal, so be vigilant of scammers trying to appear like a government agency. If you have federal student loans, work with the Department of Education directly at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans.

  • If you have federal student loans, do NOT share your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID with any company offering debt relief assistance.

Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

Since 2014, Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $292 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has also transferred more than $33 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund. Following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016, the OAG’s Consumer Protection Section has been even more effective in fighting for the rights of Virginians.

 

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