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Navient student loan forgiveness: Who does it cover—and who it doesn’t

BY Sydney LakeFebruary 02, 2022, 9:19 PM

Student loan borrowers and the Too Much Talent Band thank President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for extending the student loan pause and now demand that they cancel student debt at a gathering outside The White House, as seen in January 2022. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

Don’t get too excited if you’ve seen that Navient, one of the country’s largest education loan management companies, will cancel $1.7 billion in student loan debt. While the loan servicer’s forgiveness will help out 66,000 student loan borrowers across the US, it’s just a small fraction of outstanding student loan debt.

As of the fourth quarter of 2021, 43.4 million borrowers held a collective $1.61 trillion in federal student loan debt, according to the Federal Student Aid Office of the Department of Education.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced in mid-January that Navient will cancel $1.7 billion in private student loan debt to resolve the allegations of deceptive servicing practices. In September 2021, Navient announced plans to leave the federal student loan servicing industry. The company was probed by 39 state attorneys general for “allegations of widespread unfair, deceptive, and abusive student loan servicing practices and abuses in originating predatory student loans,” according to a statement released by Shapiro’s office.

The important thing to know is that Navient services both private and federal student loans—and the company’s most recent round of debt cancellations doesn’t apply to all of its borrowers.

Who will get their debt canceled by Navient?

The entire settlement with Navient totals $1.85 billion. The majority of that amount—or about $1.7 billion in forgiveness—will cover the cost of canceling the remaining balance on subprime private student loan balances of about 66,000 borrowers.

Borrowers who had loans that originated between 2002 and 2010—and later defaulted—will receive forgiveness, according to Navient. Shapiro said that borrowers were affected by two “deceptive and unfair schemes.”

“The first scheme involved Navient issuing subprime private loans to borrowers they knew could not pay the money back—similar to the mortgage crisis in 2008,” Shapiro said in a statement in January. “The second scheme we uncovered was Navient’s drive to mislead borrowers into forbearances, which stopped them from paying down the principal on their loan and led many to accumulate more debt and never-ending interest payments.”

Navient never admitted to or confirmed these claims, calling them “unfounded claims.” Still, the company is paying off borrowers to “avoid the additional burden, expense, time, and distraction to prevail in court,” Navient’s chief legal officer Mark Heleen said in a statement.

Another $95 million from the $1.85 billion settlement will go toward restitution payments of approximately $260 each to about 350,000 federal student loan borrowers who were placed in long-term forbearances, according to Shapiro’s office.

…and who doesn’t

While about 350,000 borrowers will get a small paycheck for their forbearance troubles, not all of Navient’s federal borrowers—or private, for that matter—will receive forgiveness. Navient has “millions” of federal and private student loan borrowers, with the most recent number being 12 million customers in 2017 for a total of $300 billion in student loans serviced.

Even though hundreds of thousands of Navient borrowers will receive a loan of forgiveness, millions still won’t. The cancellations are also largely going to accounts that opened during the early 2000s, so if you opened an account with Navient more recently, it’s unlikely that you qualify.

Most importantly, the cancellations are going to Navient’s private student loan customers. Federal student loan customers as having been placed in long-term forbearances are getting cut only a small restitution check.

“We are frustrated that federal student loan borrowers are left crushed by debt despite Navient’s obvious track record of abuse,” Cody Hounanian, executive director of the Student Debt Crisis Center, said in a statement. “The predatory student loan industry’s actions harmed a generation’s hopes of a better future, widened the racial wealth gap, and stole the American dream in exchange for profits. [The] The announcement is a step in the right direction, but more must be done.”

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