Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed an Obama-era rule that protected millions of Americans stuck with student loans from being charged excessive interest fees as long as the borrower shows good faith in trying to pay the loan back, as Occupy Democrats reported March 17.
However, the debt collectors who stand to make millions by hiking up fees say they are going to ignore DeVos’s guidance and continue to treat students who promise to pay off the loans in a reasonable period of time fairly.
“Many student loan borrowers already have a difficult time managing their loan obligations,” James Patterson, CEO of the Texas guaranty agency told Bloomberg. “Adding more fees does not help their situation.”
The 26 loan companies that act as debt collectors for Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) said over the past week they will not automatically charge the default fee which is about 16 percent of the total balance owed, according to Bloomberg.
They will continue to give those drowning in student debt the Obama break as long as the debtors promise to pay up within two months or less.
That means they will help as many as 11 million debtors who combined are on the hook for about $231 million, according to federal data.
The promise not to jack up the interest is even being made by United Student Aid Funds, the company which had sued the Obama administration to try and over-turn the rule. Until 2015, United had charged the higher fees, earning about $15 million annually going back to 2007.
United Student Aid Funds had been run during the Obama years by Bill Hansen, who had been Deputy Undersecretary of Eduction under George W. Bush.
At the time DeVos took over Hansen’s son Taylor, a former for-profit college lobbyist, was employed at the Education Department as one of DeVos’s advisors. Shortly after she reversed the Obama rule on excessive fees, he quit and left to go back into private industry.
Hansen and DeVos would not comment on why he left, but consumer advocate and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) said: “There’s no question” that Taylor Hansen’s family ties posed a conflict of interest.
The reason Hansen’s old company has reversed course on the higher fees for delinquent borrowers is that it was sold and now belongs to Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., which says it will continue to follow the Obama rules.
President Obama recognized that the plague of student loans is a national calamity, and acted in several ways to try and treat and help people who spend years paying down loans and high-interest rates, that go on long after they are out of college or a trade school.
DeVos, who is working with Trump to undermine the American public education system, and boost private charter schools, is part of an administration which only cares about the interests of business and corporations.
It is refreshing that some companies show compassion even as they profit from people who have long since ceased to be students. At least in this small way, human beings trump the greedy bottom line oriented bean counters.