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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB releases education ombudsman’s annual report

Federal Issues CFPB Student Lending Covid-19 CARES Act Debt Collection

Federal Issues

On October 26, the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman published its annual report on consumer complaints submitted between September 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021. The report is based on approximately 5,300 complaints received by the Bureau regarding federal and private student loans. Of these complaints, roughly 900 were related to debt collection, while approximately 730 mentioned Covid-19. The Bureau’s press release noted that the overall decrease in both federal and private student loan complaints may be attributed to the CARES Act relief measures and administrative extensions that were extended through January 31, 2022. The Bureau stated, however, that the pandemic exacerbated socio-economic and racial disparities in the student lending space and caused heightened risk of borrower harm, particularly to vulnerable populations. Additionally, the Bureau warned that the risk of borrower harm may also increase as more than 32 million borrowers with federal loans resume payments in the first quarter of 2022, and, because four of nine federal student loan servicers have or will soon stop servicing federal student loans, over 16 million borrowers will transfer to different servicers. Findings in the report included topics related to student loan complaint trends, debt collection complaints, and supervisory findings related to student loan servicers, etc.

The report also advised policymakers to consider several recommendations, including: (i) considering metrics for sharing risks shouldered by borrowers with schools that fail to provide meaningful paths to repayment; (ii) accelerating efforts to incorporate qualitative and quantitative metrics to protect consumers into future federal student loan servicing contracts; (iii) requiring detailed disclosures provided with every student loan disbursement; (iv) considering various loan forgiveness programs; (v) examining return to repayment and servicer transitions; and (vi) identifying and prosecuting data aggregators and payment processors, as well as student loan debt relief scammers.

 

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