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Problems With Your Student Loan? TN Can't Protect You

Tennessee laws can no longer protect consumers from unscrupulous student loan service companies. (
Tennessee laws can no longer protect consumers from unscrupulous student loan service companies. (
March 21, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sixty percent of Tennesseans graduate with student loan debt - owing $26,000 on average. And people experiencing problems with their loan service provider now have one less level of protection.

The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has issued an interpretation of the law that says state student loan servicing laws are preempted by Federal law. At the same time, the Department of Education has stopped sharing information on student loans with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the bureau has said it will no longer enforce laws.

Charlene Crowell, deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending, said it adds up to a bad situation for Tennessee consumers.

"Somewhere, consumers need relief,” Crowell said. “If it's not going to happen at the federal level, that's troubling enough. But to try and preempt state laws enacted to provide another layer of protection for consumers is just bad policy."

Nationwide, there are 44 million Americans with a student loan debt amounting to $1.5 trillion. In the last five years, more than 50,000 complaints have been filed with the CFPB.

Tennessee's Attorney General Herbert Slatery joined 25 other AGs from around the country in penning a letter to Secretary DeVos, urging her to "reject an ongoing campaign by student loan servicers and debt collectors to secure immunity for themselves."

Crowell said the situation is now next to impossible for Tennessee lawmakers if they want to offer their residents protection.

"For consumers, here's the deal,” Crowell said. “If the Education Department is not going to work with CFPB to resolve student loan complaints, and CFPB is not interested in aggressive consumer enforcement, why try to tie the hands of states who are only trying to protect their own residents?"

She added that people of color are among those consumers hardest hit by the change, because disparities in wealth often lead them to seek more student loans.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN