CHARLENE CROWELL

This year’s swearing in of a new Congress and President signaled a surge of new ideas and approaches to government. However, no elected or appointed official should ever depart from or diminish the primary role of government: service to the American people. Ours was, is and must remain a democracy that affords every citizen the opportunity to become a productive and contributing member of society.

Yet in recent weeks, the Department of Education has taken a series of specific actions that depart from our creed and duty. By disregarding the needs of 40 million debt-laden student loan borrowers who collectively owe more than $1.2 trillion, it seems one of the Education Department’s top priorities is to respond to concerns of student loan servicers hired and paid with taxpayer dollars.

Where is a DeVos plan to address these still-growing concerns? With more philanthropic than administrative expertise, hearing from student borrowers, higher education officials and consumer advocates would provide insightful benefits to the new Education Secretary.

In 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received 12,300 student loan complaints. Of these, the vast majority—67 percent—concerned either their lender or their servicer.  Another 30 percent of student loan complaints focused on fees, billing, credit reporting, defaults and fraud.

“More frequently than other issues, non-federal and federal student loan borrowers expressed their concerns relating to trouble with how payments are handled,” states CFPB’s report. “Borrowers complained of misapplied payments and inaccurate accounting of payments. Some borrowers complained of misapplication of payments and reported that payments were not applied to specific accounts, but rather applied to all accounts managed by the servicer.”

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