Articles Posted in Student loans

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heroes-actWe’ve been advocating for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (“PSLF”) to be fixed for a few years now.  Our class action lawsuit against Navient went nowhere, but the one against Great Lakes has been commended for a ruling last month by the 11th Circuit to help hold federal student loan servicers accountable when they talk to their borrowers:  like how their loans would be impacted by various programs for instance.  Something you’d expect a servicer to get right.  So when a servicer tells someone that their payments count toward PSLF, you can rely on that.

It’s now possible that Congress may work to fix the very serious problem where not all federal loans are treated the same.  Fixing this via legislation will impact a whole lot more borrowers than individual or even class action lawsuits.

Enter the proposed HEROES Act which would address problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which allows qualifying public servants to get their federal student loans forgiven after 10 years of repayment. Currently, only Direct federal student loans are eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF program. Borrowers who have commercially-held FFEL-program federal student loans and Perkins loans do not qualify unless they consolidate those loans via the federal Direct consolidation program. By consolidating, however, they would erase any progress towards the 10 year repayment period and would effectively be starting over. The HEROES Act would allow payments made prior to consolidation to count towards PSLF.

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CARES-ACT

Webinar: Why you should care about the CARES Act

May 20, 2020 at Noon

 

The Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association will be hosting a FREE Webinar via Zoom on May 20, 2020 from 12:00 to 1:30pm. Why you should care about the CARES Act and its impact on Student Loans, Foreclosure, Collection, and Consumer and Business Bankruptcy. Christie Arkovich, Jake Blanchard, Nicole Mariani Noel and Chapter 13 Trustee, Kelly Remick, will discuss provisions of the stimulus bill that expand or create options for Debtors in Chapter 13 cases as well as Small Business Debtors under Subchapter V and many more. Panelists will also discuss foreclosure, forbearance, collection and student loan impacts. No cost to attend. This will be a live webinar and will not be recorded. Register here.

Couldn’t come at a better time now that things are hoppin’ a bit more!  I encourage our colleagues to register for local insight to help represent our clients the best we can in these trying times

 

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgThere a few unanswered questions regarding the roll out of federal student loan borrower protections provided by the CARES Act.

The Student Borrower Protection Center and the National Consumer Law Center have combined forces and raised certain concerns to Secretary DeVos in a letter today that can be found here.

Clarifications are being made to the Paycheck Protection Program which have encouraged, in particular large cap, public companies, with access to other funds, to return funds that were meant for small business.  Perhaps the attached recommended consumer guidance will encourage the Department of Education to clarify and extend borrower protections where necessary as well.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgFalse information provided by federal student loan servicers applying the CARES Act may also lead to liability in light of a recent case allowing public service employees to seek PSLF relief after being misinformed about the applicability of the law.

A recent Forbes article noted our PSLF case’s potential impact.  “Student loan borrowers have scored another victory against a student loan servicer for unfair and deceptive practices. And the impact of this decision could be far-reaching.”

Lawson-Ross et al vs. Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., No. 18-14490 (11th Cir. 2020) involved two of our PSLF clients.  In this three year long battle, we worked with class and appellate counsel (attorneys Katherine Yanes, Dan Zibel, Brian Shrader and Gus Centrone) who did a fantastic job!  This should be helpful for any state consumer law violation – the Higher Educ Act does not preempt state consumer FCCPA/FDCPA claims for affirmative misrepresentations.  This was not a failure to disclose case.  It revolved around a servicer accused of giving false information.  See pages 18-19 for detailed analysis of the difference of a servicer providing false information when asked about a forgiveness program and a failure to disclose.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgYou’ve probably heard by now that the CARES Act provides for a suspension of payments and collections, and waiver of interest for six months.  However, not all loans are covered.

Importantly, 20% of federal student loan borrowers are not covered by the CARES Act.

  • Covered loans do not include FFEL loans that are commercially owned, Perkins loans and Private loans.
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penny-hoarder
We were interviewed by the Penny Hoarder this week in their story “How You Could Get a Temporary Break from Student Loans Due to COVID-19.”

You should also check out our recent blog post “Watch Out for These Pitfalls that may come with Suspended Federal Student Loan Interest.”

Under the right circumstances, a six month forbearance with non-accrual of interest will help a lot of folks.  But beware that not everyone will qualify for this and their credit could be impaired if payments are not made.  An income driven plan starting right now could be a better option for those with FFEL loans!  You can also have your current income driven plan recalculated if your income or hours have dropped recently.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpg
The CARE Act passed over the weekend extends the 60 day forbearance, interest waiver for all Direct Loans, and collection activities for 6 months.  Until the Department of Education can update its rules to be CARE compliant, here is a summary of what to expect:

Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents

Interest Suspension:

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgHow do you determine if the COVID-19 federal law waiving interest applies to your federal student loans?  The most recent changes are summarized here in a nice Q&A format:  https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus.

My take on all this:  The Act suspends student loan payments and interest accrual through September 30. For those in federal loan forgiveness programs, those months will count as months in which payments were made.

Now for the finer points:  for the interest waiver, not all federal loans count, only Direct Loans and those Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) which are owned by the government.  Most FFEL loans are owned by third parties and only guaranteed by the government.  Perkins Loans are owned by the institution and the interest waiver does not apply either.  Eighty percent of all federal loans were FFEL loans before the FFEL program was discontinued in 2010.  I’d estimate one-quarter to one half of all federal loans are still FFEL loans.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgWe’ve gathered some information below for folks with student related questions if their job/business/income has been impacted by the CoronaVirus/COVID-19:

Here some info below on servicers and US Dept of ED current updates:

  • Nelnet; currently open “attempting to keep call centers staffed, however use online options”  Offers: Deferment, forbearance
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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgLawyers often spend too much time focused on whether a debtor meets the Brunner test for undue hardship that they miss major opportunities to reduce and eliminate federal and private student loan debt.  Many people are in forbearance for years while their loan balances continue to grow.  Taking advantage of Income Driven Plans in bankruptcy by using the Buchanan language and the new Student Loan Management Program in the Middle District of Florida can save tens of thousands of dollars.

How else can a student loan attorney help?  By ensuring borrowers are placed in the correct IDR plans which can often save hundreds per month and allow for full forgiveness.  Helping borrowers to understand and minimize the tax consequences.  Curing defaults to stop wage garnishment, social security offset and tax intercepts.  Helping borrowers ensure they are properly enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness – to avoid being one of the 99.5% who are being denied this relief.

Private non-qualified, non-school certified, loans are subject to discharge.  Recent case law permits the discharge of private loans to attend ineligible schools, Bar Study or Tuition Answer loans or for debt incurred beyond the cost of the education.  Cases such as In re Kashikar, In re Campbell, In re Dufrane, In re Wiley, In re Essangui and In re Decena are paving the way to creating Florida precedent for discharge such as in In re Lysiuk and In re Lytkina a/k/a Mulligan.  We help consumers to take control of their student loans and create a plan for a reduced amount of debt, and an affordable payment with an end in sight.  Settlements outside of bankruptcy are also possible, although this will cause a taxable event for the forgiveness (which does not occur in a bankruptcy).

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