JAN 13, 2022
Settlement includes $1.7 billion in debt cancellation; South Carolina borrowers will receive over $20 million in relief.
(COLUMBIA, S.C.) - Attorney General Alan Wilson announced today that Navient, known as one of the nation’s largest student loan servicers, will settle allegations of widespread unfair and deceptive student loan servicing practices and abuses in originating predatory student loans.
This settlement, joined by a coalition of 39 attorneys general, resolves claims that since 2009, despite representing that it would help borrowers find the best repayment options for them, Navient steered struggling student loan borrowers into costly long-term forbearances instead of counseling them about the benefits of more affordable income-driven repayment plans.
“Student loan debt is a big enough problem as it is and this company that was supposed to help students deceived them instead and made things worse,” Attorney General Wilson said. “This debt cancellation should repair some of the damage and requires the company to change the way it does business from now on.”
Attorney General Alan Wilson filed the settlement as a proposed Consent Judgment today in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. The settlement will require court approval.
According to the attorneys general, the interest that accrued because of Navient’s forbearance steering practices was added to the borrowers’ loan balances, pushing borrowers further in debt. Had the company instead provided borrowers with the help it promised, income-driven repayment plans could have potentially reduced payments to as low as $0 per month, provided interest subsidies, and/or helped attain forgiveness of any remaining balance after 20-25 years of qualifying payments (or 10 years for borrowers qualified under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program).
Navient also allegedly originated predatory subprime private loans to students attending for-profit schools and colleges with low graduation rates, even though it knew that a very high percentage of such borrowers would be unable to repay the loans. Navient allegedly made these risky subprime loans as “an inducement to get schools to use Navient as a preferred lender” for highly-profitable federal and “prime” private loans, without regard for borrowers and their families, many of whom were unknowingly ensnared in debts they could never repay.
Under the terms of the settlement, Navient will cancel the remaining balance on more than $1.7 billion in subprime private student loan balances owed more than 66,000 borrowers nationwide. Borrowers who will receive debt cancellation span all generations: Navient’s harmful conduct impacted everyone from students who enrolled in colleges and universities immediately after high school to mid-career students who dropped out after enrolling in a for-profit school in the early to mid-2000s.
As part of the settlement, South Carolina borrowers will receive a total of $20,432,476 in private loan debt cancellation. There just over 800 South Carolinians affected.
The settlement includes conduct reforms that require Navient to explain the benefits of income-driven repayment plans and to offer to estimate income-driven payment amounts before placing borrowers into optional forbearances. Additionally, Navient must train specialists who will advise distressed borrowers concerning alternative repayment options and counsel public service workers concerning Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and related programs. The conduct reforms imposed by the settlement include prohibitions on compensating customer service agents in a manner that incentivizes them to minimize time spent counseling borrowers.
The settlement also requires Navient to notify borrowers about the U.S. Department of Education’s recently announced PSLF limited waiver opportunity, which temporarily offers millions of qualifying public service workers the chance to have previously non-qualifying repayment periods counted toward loan forgiveness—provided that they consolidate into the Direct Loan Program and file employment certifications by October 31, 2022.
As a result of today’s settlement, borrowers receiving private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022, along with refunds of any payments made on the cancelled private loans after June 30, 2021.
Until recently, Navient had a contract to service federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, including a large portfolio of loans made under the Direct Loan Program and a large portfolio of loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program. On October 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced the transfer of this contract from Navient to AidVantage, a division of Maximus Federal Services, Inc. However, Navient will continue to service federal student loans made under the FFEL Program that are owned by private lenders, as well as non-federal private student loans.
Today’s settlement was led by Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, and California, and was joined by attorneys general in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
For media inquiries please contact Robert Kittle, email@example.com or 803-734-3670Media Contact