Navient Corp., a major servicer of private and federal student loans, is facing five lawsuits alleging that it harmed student loan borrowers throughout the repayment process. The suits are still pending and could take years to conclude. In the meantime, here are answers to common borrower questions:
What is the Navient lawsuit?
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Illinois and Washington attorneys general sued Navient in January 2017. Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed a suit in October 2017. California’s attorney general filed a suit in June 2018.
Among other things, the CFPB alleges that since at least January 2010, Navient has:
- Misallocated payments
- Steered struggling borrowers toward multiple forbearances instead of income-driven repayment plans, and
- Provided unclear information about how to re-enroll in income-driven repayment plans and how to qualify for a co-signer release.
The CFPB is asking Navient to compensate the borrowers the agency says were harmed. Navient believes the CFPB’s claims are “unfounded,” and says the suits are based on new servicing standards that are being applied retroactively, according to an October 2017 fact sheet.
In August 2017, a U.S. District Court judge denied Navient’s motion to dismiss the CFPB’s case. The case is now moving toward the discovery process of gathering evidence, which could lead to further motions, a trial or a settlement, says Suzanne Martindale, a staff attorney at Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports.
The lawsuits could take years to play out “because of the sheer amount of evidence” that the CFPB and the states have gathered during their investigations, Martindale says.
Is Navient student loan forgiveness real?
There’s no such thing as a “Navient student loan forgiveness” program, and it’s unlikely that Navient borrowers will get the compensation the CFPB is requesting anytime soon.
Navient borrowers with federal student loans may be eligible for one of the federal student loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or forgiveness through an income-driven repayment plan. However, forgiveness through these programs takes diligence and it isn’t immediate. It takes at least 10 years of making on-time payments to qualify for PSLF, for instance.
Is Navient my student loan servicer?
Your student loan servicer is the company you make payments to each month. It’s not always the same company that lent you money in the first place.
Here’s how to tell which company services your student loans:
- For federal loans: Log on to the Federal Student Aid website using your FSA ID. Click on the blue numbers in the loan table to see more details about each loan, including your “Current ED servicer.” It may be Navient, or it could be another company such as FedLoan Servicing, Great Lakes Higher Education or Nelnet.
- For private loans: If there’s no record of your student loans in the Federal Student Aid system, the loans are private. Log on to your online loan account, if you have one, or check your last loan statement. The company powering the account or sending the statement is your loan servicer.
- Not sure whether your loans are federal, private, or a mix of both? Navient services both federal and private loans. Check your credit report to see all of your education debts, including federal and private student loans.
How can I switch student loan servicers?
It is possible to switch student loan servicers through federal consolidation or student loan refinancing. But you shouldn’t consolidate or refinance solely to switch servicers, because there are potential risks associated with each, says Adam Minsky, a Boston-based lawyer specializing in student loans. Also, there’s no guarantee you’ll be better off with a different servicer.
“The other servicers aren’t exactly rainbows and sunshine,” Minsky says.
What else can I do to protect myself?
Even if you can’t change servicers, there are several things you can do to voice your concerns and protect yourself as a borrower: File complaints, check your credit report for errors, learn about your repayment options, and watch out for companies that charge fees for student loan help.
- Submit a complaint to the CFPB
- Submit a complaint to the Department of Education
- Submit a complaint to Navient (if it’s your student loan servicer)
The CFPB alleges that Navient ignores borrowers’ complaints. But getting your concerns in writing is still worthwhile, if only to improve the system for others, Seth Frotman, student loan ombudsman and assistant director of the office for students at the CFPB, said in a press call in January 2017.
“We receive thousands of complaints,” Frotman said. “That has dramatically informed our work around improving the student loan servicing market.”
- Income-driven repayment plans can lower your monthly federal student loan payments by capping your payment at a percentage of your income. They also offer loan forgiveness after you make on-time payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan.
- Student loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, can relieve your federal student loan debt if you work for a certain type of employer and make on-time payments for a certain period of time
- Federal consolidation doesn’t lower your monthly payments or save you money, but it’s sometimes necessary to qualify for income-driven repayment or a forgiveness program. Consolidating is frequently confused with student loan refinancing, which is a way to save money on interest by getting a lower rate.
If your servicer isn’t answering your student loan questions, contact the Department of Education or your state’s attorney general’s office for help.