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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOE releases post-moratorium collection guidance for guaranty agencies

Federal Issues Department of Education Student Lending Consumer Finance Debt Collection Covid-19

Federal Issues

On December 2, the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid published guidance informing guaranty agencies (GAs) of their obligations related to Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans that are in default. In August, the DOE implemented its Fresh Start initiative, which establishes guarantor obligations for a one-year period following the pandemic payment pause. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the current pause on student loan repayments, interest, and collection was extended last month as the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the Biden administration’s appeal of an injunction entered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that temporarily prohibits the Secretary of Education from discharging any federal loans under the agency’s student debt relief plan.

According to the guidance, GAs are required to suspend collection efforts (including involuntary collections) against borrowers who are eligible for the Fresh Start initiative for one year after the pandemic moratorium ends. During this period, GAs may counsel borrowers about the processing of voluntary payments as well as their loan terms and what repayment plans may be available should their loan be removed from default. Loan rehabilitations occurring during the moratorium will not count toward a borrower’s single opportunity to rehabilitate a loan, the guidance explained, adding that beginning February 1, 2023, “GAs will report all defaulted borrowers as current unless their first date of delinquency (FDD) – which is not the same as their default date – is more than seven years ago. If the FDD is more than seven years ago, GAs must delete the borrower’s tradeline.” However, GAs will not be expected to perform retroactive tradeline updates. Following the end of the moratorium, GAs may resume interest rate accruals for all loans provided it is done in accordance with the law and the borrower’s promissory note, in addition to any loan modifications agreed upon by the GA. GAs must also obtain consent under the TCPA when communicating with borrowers, and gather information related to borrowers’ income-driven repayment plans and bankruptcy account details, if applicable.

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