Student Loan Settlement

Student loan settlement is where borrowers negotiate with their lenders on how to repay their outstanding student loan debt. 

The loan provider agrees to accept a reduced amount of the loan balance as a full payment, typically in a lump sum or through a structured payment plan.  

However, student loan debt has become a significant financial burden for millions of individuals in the United States. 

As borrowers struggle to manage their loans, exploring options for debt settlement has gained prominence. 

This article highlights these crucial aspects of student loan debt settlement, including who qualifies for relief.

Read Also: Student Loan Debt Relief: Everything You Need to Know

How Student Loan Settlement Works

Student Loan Settlement

Processing a student loan settlement can be lengthy and complex. Most people hire lawyers to assist them, but you can negotiate yourself because hiring a lawyer can be expensive and does not guarantee a better settlement offer.

The settlement terms you receive will depend on your loan type (federal or private) and the lender you’re dealing with.

For Private student loans, the lenders are usually willing to negotiate with you on the best options for repayment when you default for at most ninety days. However, each private lender has its rules on payment defaults. 

On the other hand, if you fail to pay Government loans, they can either; 

  • Take a portion of your wages or 
  • Seize your tax refunds

But, if you apply for settlement, you must provide evidence of financial hardship, such as copies of your pay stubs, tax returns, and other supporting documents

According to the National Consumer Law Center, the U.S. Department of Education offers different options for settling Direct Loans. 

These options include paying the total principal and interest, paying the entire principal and 50% of the interest, paying 90%, or seeking a discretionary compromise with approval from the DoE. 

If you successfully negotiate a settlement, obtaining written agreement documentation is essential. A one-time payment is typically required in loan default cases, often through a collections agency.

Class Action on Student Loan Debt 

Most borrowers in the U.S. usually find it challenging to pay back their student loans. They carry these loans till their 50s, even without finishing the degree. Student loan debt amounted to 1.7 trillion dollars in 2021.  

In 2015 many debtors requested loan forgiveness claiming their schools misled them into acquiring these loans.

In such cases, the government can cancel federal student loan debt if it determines that the borrower’s school engaged in misconduct. 

This eventually led to a class action suit against the Department of Education (DoE) in 2019 in Sweet v. Cardona, involving 151 institutions. They demanded faster resolution and relief for those who have submitted petitions for loan cancellation.

The lawsuit went through a lengthy legal process with the Trump administration. However, by June 2022, the Biden administration agreed to settle tens of thousands of borrowers eligible for debt relief. These borrowers had attended one of the schools accused of misconduct.

Additionally, the government agreed to review and make decisions on the applications of thousands of other borrowers within a specified timeframe.

The recent decision by the justices means that the settlement will remain in effect, providing relief to the borrowers covered.

Read Also: Which Student Loan Is The Best Overall?

Biden’s Student Loan Settlement Plans

President Joe Biden has proposed several initiatives aimed at addressing student loan debt.

These plans seek to ease the burden on borrowers and provide potential pathways to settlement.

The impact of these plans on student loan debtors includes:

1. Loan Forgiveness for Public Service

One of the key proposals under Biden’s plan is to expand loan forgiveness programs for borrowers working in public service. 

This could include professions such as teachers, nurses, and public servants. Qualifying borrowers may become eligible for a reduction in their loan balances after several years of service.

2. Income-Driven Repayment Reforms

The Biden administration has proposed reforms to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans designed to make loan payments more manageable based on borrowers’ income levels. 

These reforms simplify and enhance existing IDR plans, making them more accessible and providing greater relief to borrowers.

3. Streamlined Loan Discharge for Defrauded Borrowers

The Biden administration plans to establish a more streamlined process for discharging loans for borrowers whose schools are defrauded. 

This would allow affected individuals to seek relief more efficiently and alleviate the fraudulent student loan debt burden.

Qualification for the Student Loan Settlement

The settlement debt relief agreement will provide $6 billion in student loan cancellation, credit repair, and payment refunds to over 200,000 borrowers. 

Those eligible for the student loan settlement plans include:

1. Sweet v. Cardona Class (Automatic Discharge Group)

These groups of borrowers must have submitted a Borrower Defense to Repayment application to the Education Department by June 22, 2022, and have attended one of the approved schools listed in the settlement agreement. 

Members of this group will receive automatic forgiveness for their eligible federal student loans. 

Additionally, they will be entitled to refunds of past payments and credit repair services to address any adverse credit reporting associated with delinquent accounts related to their loans. The Education Department will pay the relief for one year.

Exceptions to these are borrowers from Lincoln Educational Services Corp., American National University, and Everglades College. Because these schools appealed to challenge the settlement, their settlement is still pending. 

2. Post-Class Applicants

These are those who submitted a Borrower Defense to Repayment application after June 22, 2022, but before the court officially approved the Sweet v. Cardona settlement agreement. 

While post-class applicants do not initially qualify for automatic relief under the settlement agreement. 

They can receive total settlement relief if the Department of Education fails to provide a decision on their applications within  36 months from the effective date of the settlement agreement. 

3. Decision Group

Other class members who submitted a Borrower Defense application before June 22, 2022, but did not attend one of the schools listed in the settlement agreement, can still receive relief under the settlement. 

However, it is essential to note that relief is not guaranteed for this group. Each group member will receive an individual decision regarding their eligibility for settlement relief based on the timeline they submitted their claims. 

Other Student Loan Settlement Options 

For those that do not qualify for loan cancellation or have private loans, here are other options to consider to repay your student loans: 

1. Deferment

You can talk to your lender and ask them to stop your loan payments temporarily. This might be possible for federal student loans and some private student loans. 

Remember that interest may still accumulate during the deferment period for federal loans, and whether it happens with private loans depends on your lender.

2. Forbearance

If you choose forbearance, you can stop or reduce your loan payments for up to a while, sometimes a year. 

Similar to deferment, forbearance may be available for federal loans and sometimes for private student loans. 

But, it doesn’t stop the interest on the loan for federal loans. However, whether it’s an option for private loans will depend on your lender. 

3. Change Your Repayment Plan

You can modify your repayment plan for both federal and private student loans.

Changing repayment means switching to a longer repayment period to reduce monthly payments. However, this can increase your overall loan by adding more interest. 

4. Refinance

If you have multiple loan payments and want a lower interest rate, consider refinancing your student loans. 

Refinancing your loans means a private lender will pay off your loans in exchange for a new loan with new terms.

This can be done with a private lender for federal and private student loans. However, remember that if you refinance federal loans with a private lender, you may lose benefits like federal loan forgiveness. 

Read Also: Best 9 Student Loan Refinance Lenders for 2023

Final Thoughts

Student loan settlement is a potential avenue for borrowers seeking relief from their debt. Navigating the complex student loan debt settlement landscape requires carefully understanding available options. 

Hence, seeking professional advice and considering the implications before any student loan agreement is essential.

Learn the potential impact of changing repayment plans and ensure that all settlement terms are documented in writing to protect your interests.

The student loan settlement plans under the Biden administration will relieve countless borrowers burdened by student loan debt. However, this settlement has several opposers, including the charged schools. 


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