The recent settlement of the lawsuit brought by a range of students against Navient (formerly known as Sallie Mae and one of the nation’s largest student loan servicing companies) has direct relevance for student borrowers in Rhode Island.
Nationally, more than 400,000 student loan holders will have their debts canceled or receive debt relief after the student loan servicing company was forced to reached a settlement with borrowers.
Navient’s move to settle came in response to lawsuits lodged by a coalition of state attorneys general who accused the company of exploiting borrowers and forcing them into illegitimate charges and interest payments.
The coalition included attorneys general from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Florida and a range of other states who have been pursuing the student loans giant, previously known as Sallie Mae, over alleged predatory lending practices that have impacted on hundreds of thousands of borrowers.
The agreement, which will have to be approved by a judge before it is finalised, cancels $1.7 billion in private loan debt owed by more than 66,000 borrowers and provides $95 million in restitution payments to approximately 350,000 federal loan borrowers who were placed on specific types of long-term forebearance.
And a good many of these borrowers are located in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island borrowers eligible for $4.6m in loan relief
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement that under the terms of the settlement, 226 Rhode Island borrowers would receive a total of $4,670,126 million in private loan debt cancellation.
The relief is to resolve allegations of widespread unfair and deceptive student loan servicing practices and abuses in originating predatory student loans.
“There are thousands of student loan borrowers in our state and not one of them deserves to be taken advantage of by their loan servicer,” said Attorney General Neronha. “When a student loan servicer, or any business for that matter, operates as a bad actor and harms Rhode Islanders, this Office will step in to protect them. This settlement will directly benefit hundreds of borrowers in Rhode Island with debt cancellation, and thousands more borrowers by ensuring these practices will not happen again.”
Am I eligible for debt cancellation in this Navient settlement?
The loans in question were taken out primarily between 2002 to 2014. These private loans often came with a variable, rather than fixed, interest rate and a shorter window than federal student loans to make payments before the loans were declared to be in default.
The attorney’s argued that many borrowers who were struggling to make payments were not told about a federal “income driven” program that could lower their payments. Others were not told about a federal program that forgives some debt for public-sector workers.
According to Navient, states with borrowers potentially eligible for relief include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
“Qualifying federal loan borrowers who were residents of one of the following states or had an address with a military postal code as of January 2017 will be issued a check in the amount of approximately $260,” Navient said.
“The agreement includes loan cancelation for approximately 66,000 borrowers who took out private student loans at Sallie Mae, largely between 2002 and 2010 and who subsequently defaulted. The vast majority of recipients borrowed prior to 2010 to attend certain for-profit schools, such as Corinthian and ITT, which closed years later once the federal government stopped lending at these schools. The total amount that will be canceled is approximately $1.7 billion in defaulted private education loans. Navient had already charged off virtually all of these loan balances, and has taken a $50 million charge for the remaining amount. Once court approval is received, borrowers and co-borrowers whose loans will be canceled will be contacted by Navient. Borrowers and co-borrowers do not need to take any action.
Are there other lawsuits against Navient still going?
Yes, a whole range of lawsuits against are still active, including the suit lodged by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
How do I find out if I qualify for debt cancellation or compensation?
Navient says it will be contacting borrowers who will receive loan cancellation following authorization of the settlement agreement in federal court. Borrowers eligible for a settlement payment will receive a postcard in the mail in the spring, according to Navient.
How to join the Navient student loan cancellation settlement
Once court approval is received, borrowers and co-borrowers whose loans will be canceled will be contacted by Navient. Borrowers and co-borrowers do not need to take any action.
How much could I get in the Navient settlement?
According to AP, in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania the average debt being canceled is around $27,000. In Washington state, it’s about $25,000.
When will Navient cancel my debts or provide compensation?
Borrowers who will see their private loan debt canceled will be notified by Navient by July 2022, along with a refund of payments they made on the loan after June 30, 2021, according to state officials. Private loan borrowers don’t need to take any action to qualify, AP has reported.
Borrowers who are eligible for a restitution payment of approximately $260 will receive a postcard from the settlement administrator this spring, state officials say. Checks are expected to go out in mid-2022.
What is the full list of 39 states that Navient has settled with?
The settlement was led by Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and California, and was joined by attorneys general in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin. All up, that’s 39 states.