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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

CFPB Releases Annual Report on Student Loans

October 19, 2015

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, published its annual report analyzing complaints submitted on private student loans and debt collections.

The CFPB examined approximately 6,400 complaints received between October 1, 2014, and September 30, 2015, as well as 2,300 debt collection complaints from borrowers "related to private and federal student loans."  The primary focus of this year's report is on non-federal loans, as the Department of Education already has access to federal data.

Individuals submitting complaints were asked to summarize each item into one of three categories: "getting a loan," "can't pay my loan," and "dealing with my lender or servicer."  The majority—59 percent—of complaints fell in the "dealing with my lender or servicer" category.  "Getting a loan" represented only 3 percent of the complaints, while 38 percent of submissions were categorized as "can't repay my loan."

In their complaints, some borrowers described difficulty finding information about repayment options, identifying issues communicating with servicers, delays in servicers processing paperwork, and inconsistent information and advice from servicers. 

The analysis shows that about 30 percent of borrowers with loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) are delinquent in repayment or are already in default.  While discontinued in 2010, FFELP loans still comprise 31 percent of outstanding federal student loans.

Interestingly, the CFPB explains that while the average balance of a delinquent borrower in its FFELP sample was $21,970—compared to the average balance of $19,280 for a delinquent borrower in the Direct Loan program—the average balance of a borrower across the FFEL sample was $19,900. That's 35 percent lower than the average balance ($26,970) of a borrower in the Direct Loan program.

Further, fewer than 6 percent of privately-held (commercial) FFELP loans are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, according to the CFPB.

Concluding the report, the CFPB's Acting Student Loan Ombudsman, Seth Frotman, makes two recommendations to policymakers.  Frotman suggests policy makers compile and publish:

  • Data on student loan performance, including metrics on default, delinquencies, and utilization of forbearance, preferably at the servicer level.
  • Data on alternative repayment plan utilization for federal and private student loans and on the performance of borrowers enrolled in these plans—again, preferably at the servicer level.

The annual report is available on the CFPB's website.


Bryan Dickson
Senior Policy Analyst

Anne Gross
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs