Student Loan News: Student Aid Cuts Proposed; Felicity Huffman in College Scandal

Welcome to Student Loan News, a weekly summary of developments and events affecting college debt in the U.S. Join us each Friday for a look at goings-on that could impact your own student loan situation.

Trump proposes 12% cut to education funding

As he did in his previous two budget requests, President Trump asked for a cut to funding for the U.S. Education Department. The proposed budget would slash $7.1 billion from programs while canceling surplus funds in the Pell Grant program, eliminating subsidized student loans, and putting an end to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, according to reports by CNBC, Inside Higher Ed and others.

The proposal also involves a “skin in the game” provision for colleges that accept federal funds. This addition might require colleges to pay if their students default on federal student loans, though the details of how exactly it would work remain unclear, the Washington Post said.

The budget proposal also seeks to reduce the number of income-driven repayment programs to just one. This single income-driven plan would cut borrowers payments to 12.5% of their discretionary income and offer loan forgiveness after 15 years for undergraduates (five years sooner than some current plans allow) and after 30 years for graduates (five to 10 years later than current plans offer).

Assistant Secretary of Education Jim Blew told reporters: “We’re coming back again asking for a reduction because the administration believes that we need to reduce the amount of discretionary funding for the Education Department.”

But few expect these budget cuts to pass, as they’ve been rejected by a Republican-led Congress in the previous two years and are even less likely to get through with today’s Democrat-led House.

How it affects YOU: In all likelihood, this budget proposal won’t make it through Congress, so you don’t have to worry about subsidized student loans or PSLF disappearing overnight. That said, keep an eye out for changes to federal programs and repayment plans, just in case funding priorities get shifted around in the future.

What’s more, the current system of income-driven repayment plans still stands, so explore your options — which include Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn, and Income-Contingent Repayment — if you’re looking for a way to adjust your monthly student loan payments and ultimately get loan forgiveness.

Senate agrees to simplify the FAFSA for students

As we detailed last month, there’s been recent talk about how to simplify the FAFSA to make it more accessible to families seeking financial aid. As of a hearing on Tuesday, the Senate is ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that would reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA from 108 to 15-25, Politico reported.

Among other reforms, this legislation would allow students to fill out the FAFSA on their own and to find out as early as eighth grade how much Pell Grant funding they might expect to receive. What’s more, families would be able to apply for financial aid sooner because they’d be able to use information from the previous year’s tax returns.

Discussions about simplifying the FAFSA have been in the works for the past five years, but this hearing could represent a big step forward, with the reform measure looking more likely to be enacted.

How it affects YOU: If you’re a soon-to-be college student (or parent of one), expect the FAFSA to become a lot simpler in the future. Although there’s no stated start date for these changes, students and their families should have an easier time applying for federal financial aid in the years to come.

FBI charges 50 in college admissions bribery scandal

You might not have been shocked by the news that wealthy families are buying their kids’ admission to top universities — but none of us expected Aunt Becky of “Full House” to be among those accused.

On Tuesday, the FBI charged 33 parents (among them actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman), an owner of a college counseling firm, an exam proctor, a college administrator and college athletic coaches in the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” according to CNN and other reports.

Federal authorities allege that the parents involved paid over $25 million to ensure their children’s admissions to elite schools such as Yale, Stanford, and UCLA. In exchange for bribes, some coaches allegedly accepted students as athletic recruits despite their never having played the given sport competitively. And an SAT proctor is reportedly charged with correcting students’ answers on the SAT to get them a higher score.

The charges in this case include mail fraud, racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the government.

How it affects YOU: Unfortunately, it’s no secret that the college admissions system tends to favor students and families in positions of privilege. From private college counseling to personal statement editing, wealthier students tend to get extra assistance navigating the college admissions process.

What’s more, entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT have been shown to be biased toward students from high-income families. While these rampant problems probably won’t be going away anytime soon, this case is at least shedding a light on inequities within the college admission process.

Also in the news…

While the Senate was tackling FAFSA simplification, the House was talking about what to do about for-profit colleges, Politico reported. Various critics testified, including a veteran who says he was scammed by DeVry University.
According to Roll Call, 68 members of Congress have their own student debt or have family members with debt. Collectively, Democrats and Republicans owe $2.5 million for higher education — so this issue is close to home.
Student loan lawyer Adam Minsky penned a piece for Forbes about student loan reforms to watch out for in 2019. Among them, Minsky cites free tuition colleges, bankruptcy reform, and the introduction of a federal refinancing program.
Although we’ll have to wait to see if the government will offer student loan refinancing, Democrats in the state of Wisconsin are pushing for a state-run refinancing program to ease the burden on borrowers, the Capital Times reports.
In lighter news, there’s a new trivia app that’s awarding winners with money to pay off student loans. To date, the Givling app has paid out more than $2.5 million to its trivia-savvy winners, according to Fox News affiliate WBRC. Looks like that college degree is finally paying off.

News can be useful, but if you want some deeper advice, take a moment to sign up for the Student Loan Hero weekly digest email and get valuable financial knowledge sent straight to your inbox … for free!

Interested in refinancing student loans?
Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!

LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
SoFi Disclosures
Student loan Refinance:

Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.074% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.540% APR to 7.115% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.540% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.49% plus 0.04% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 11, 2019 and are subject to change without notice.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.55% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of February 27, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures

FIXED APR
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

VARIABLE APR
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.83 to $194.73. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.64 to $147.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.58 to $113.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.86 to $87.94. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.23 to $76.93.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 2.98%-9.72% (2.98%-9.72% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 3.89%-9.99% (3.89%-9.99% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.

2.54% – 7.12%3Undergrad & Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.55% – 6.97%1Undergrad & Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.67% – 8.96%4Undergrad & Graduate

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3.23% – 6.65%2Undergrad & Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.69% – 7.43%5Undergrad & Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.98% – 9.72%6Undergrad & Graduate

Visit Citizens

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