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Banks’ Secret Weapon in Student Loan Fight: Mom

One solution lawmakers put forward in the growing debate over student loans is to forgive the debt of some borrowers who file and get approved for bankruptcy. But experts say even if Congress passes such legislation, banks have already taken the measures to ensure it won’t work.

Getty Images

Two bills introduced last year — the Fairness for Struggling Students Act and the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011 — are suddenly in the center of a national debate over Americans’ skyrocketing student-loan debt. Both bills would give borrowers who have bankruptcy courts forgive their debts a way out of the private, but not Federal, college loans that they’re unable to repay. Unlike most consumer debt, including credit cards, car loan and mortgages, student loans currently cannot be wiped out after bankruptcy. Those whose debts are dismissed in bankruptcy today are still on the hook for their student loan payments.

While the legislation is aimed at helping thousands of borrowers struggling with debt, some experts say banks seem to have prepared for this possibility. Since they now require cosigners on most of the loans, both the borrower — and in many cases his or her parents – would need court-approved bankruptcies in order to wiggle free of the debt. And the law could have broader consequences, experts say, such as more stringent requirements to qualify for student loans, and slightly higher rates.

More than 90% of college loans private lenders have doled out since the credit crunch have co-signers, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, which tracks financial aid and student loans. That’s up from roughly 50% prior to 2008. The chances both the borrower and co-signers would obtain bankruptcy discharges together are slim, he says. Since the recession, lenders have been thoroughly vetting co-signers to make sure they have top credit scores, pristine credit histories, and low debt compared to their income, say experts, and in many cases those co-signers end up being the students’ parents.

Of course, a new law could help those students who signed up for a private loan when lending requirements were loose. Chances are many of them didn’t have a co-signer or a co-signer could have been a friend whose own credit may be in the dumps now. It’s also unclear whether either of these bills will make headway. At least six bills have been introduced since 2006 to make student loans dischargeable and none of them have come to fruition.

But should the law be passed, students seeking loans in the future could find financing even harder to get than it is now. A report by the Consumer Bankers Association, which represents student loan lenders, states that pending legislation “could discourage lenders from offering private student loans or result in an increase in pricing (e.g. interest rates) to reflect additional risk.” For students, options for private loans have been shrinking for some time: There are now 22 lenders providing private student loans, down from about 60 before the market crash, according to FinAid.org. Last month, US Bank became the latest lender to exit the market.

It’s unclear how much rates on private loans could rise. Kantrowitz says the increase would likely be small, and might impact the upfront fees students pay on these loans rather than the rate.

For their part, private lenders say they represent a small part of the student loan market. Less than 7% of the student loans projected to be made during the current academic year — roughly $7 to $8 billion — are private student loans, according to the CBA. (The CBA didn’t return calls for comment.) Meanwhile, 93% or $111 billion are projected to be federal student loans. Separately, about 84% of outstanding student debt consists of federal student loans.

Like private loans, federal loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy. Neither of the bills call for federal loans to be discharged. Consumer advocates say it’s because taxpayers would ultimately be on the hook to pay for those losses.

When borrowers default on private loans, private lenders can garnish their wages (with court approval) and can go after some assets like cash in a bank account. But with federal loans, borrowers who’ve defaulted could risk losing even more: In addition to garnishing wages, the government can keep their federal and state income tax refunds, intercept future lottery winnings, and withhold part of their Social Security payments.

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    • It would be better if private loans offered offered some income based repayments. Especially considering the co signers who got stuck paying for other people’s loans while paying their own on a public school teacher’s salary.

    • @Graywolf
      I’d gladly goto a Co-Ed debtor’s prison than being a slave to a student loan that will never go away. At least I won’t have to worry about having a place to say and food. Where as now I’m starving and almost homeless because of these loans. Its not so much about what you went to college for either. So many law graduates are coming out of school with huge debt and no jobs. Law used to be a very prestigious profession. Now its a student loan mill tragedy.

    • @Wm
      Did you read the article? They are not talking about bankrupting federal student loans. They are talking about private, which wont affect your precious “tax dollars.”

    • @Professor:
      Please let us know where you teach so that we don’t send our posterity to learn anything from such a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered individual like yourself.

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132.55MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 132.70M
Unchanged
134
Decliners
1500
Advancers
4873
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
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Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 15,974 +314 2.00%
Nasdaq
/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,338 +71 1.66%
S&P 500
/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,865 +36 1.95%
GlobalDow
/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,070 +23 1.11%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/33772884/delayed 1,239 -9 0.75%
Oil
/quotes/zigman/2260836/delayed 29.02 +2.81 10.72%
FTSE 100
/quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed 5,708 +171 3.08%
DAX
/quotes/zigman/2380246/delayed 8,968 +215 2.45%
CAC 40
/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 3,995 +98 2.52%
FTSE MIB
/quotes/zigman/1482176/delayed 16,515 +742 4.70%
IBEX 35
/quotes/zigman/2759620/delayed 7,921 +175 2.25%
Stoxx 600
/quotes/zigman/2380150/delayed 312 +9 2.91%
Asia Dow
/quotes/zigman/6959860/realtime 2,385 -51 2.10%
Nikkei 225
/quotes/zigman/5986735/delayed 14,953 -761 4.84%
Hang Seng
/quotes/zigman/2622475/delayed 18,320 -226 1.22%
Shanghai
/quotes/zigman/1859015/delayed 2,763 -18 0.63%
Sensex
/quotes/zigman/1652085/delayed 22,986 +34 0.15%
Singapore
/quotes/zigman/1709939/delayed 2,540 +2 0.07%
Euro
/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.13 -0.01 0.61%
Yen
/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 113.25 +0.83 0.74%
Pound
/quotes/zigman/16008140/realtime/sampled 1.45 +0.00 0.18%
Australia$
/quotes/zigman/16008115/realtime/sampled 0.71 0.00 0.04%
DXY Index
/quotes/zigman/1652083/delayed 95.97 +0.36 0.38%
WSJ $ Idx
/quotes/zigman/41508961/realtime 88.99 +0.23 0.26%
U.S. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866666/realtime 1.75 0.00 0.00%
German 10y
/quotes/zigman/15866409/realtime 0.26 +0.07 37.97%
Italy 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866497/realtime 1.64 -0.08 4.67%
Spain 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866444/realtime 1.74 -0.04 2.01%
U.K. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866328/realtime 1.42 0.00 0.00%
Japan 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866525/realtime 0.08 +0.06 442.45%
Crude Oil
/quotes/zigman/2260836/delayed 29 +3 10.72%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/33772884/delayed 1,239 -9 0.75%
Corn
/quotes/zigman/25518691/delayed 359 -1 0.35%
DJIA F
/quotes/zigman/48241424/delayed 15,925 +313 2.00%
S&P F
/quotes/zigman/43106711/delayed 1,860 +36 1.95%
Silver
/quotes/zigman/32655632/delayed 16 0 0.03%

Quotes

Symbol Price Change % Change
FB /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite 102.01 0.10 0.10%
AAPL /quotes/zigman/68270/composite 93.99 0.29 0.31%
GOOG /quotes/zigman/59527964/composite 682.40 -0.71 -0.10%
BAC /quotes/zigman/190927/composite 11.95 0.79 7.08%
C /quotes/zigman/5065548/composite 37.54 2.56 7.32%
F /quotes/zigman/264304/composite 11.55 0.38 3.40%
T /quotes/zigman/398198/composite 36.47 0.26 0.72%
BP /quotes/zigman/247026/composite 29.02 1.38 4.99%
GE /quotes/zigman/227468/composite 28.26 0.81 2.95%
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5 yr CD
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2 yr CD
0.7%
1 yr CD
0.6%
MMA $10K+
0.2%
MMA $50K+
0.4%

National averages from Bankrate.com

You Don’t Need Another Credit Card, You Need A Better One.
Avg. APR Last Week 6 Months
Low Interest 11.96% 11.96% 11.62%
Business 13.12% 13.12% 12.85%
Student 13.42% 13.42% 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.35% 14.35% 14.12%
Airline 15.17% 15.17% 15.10%
Cash Back 15.20% 15.26% 15.27%
Reward 15.25% 15.28% 15.14%
Instant Approval 18.02% 18.21% 18.00%
Bad Credit 22.56% 22.88% 22.73%
Source:CreditCards.com

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