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Student loan borrowers face long hold times and inaccurate bills, feds find

Student loan borrowers running into issues
Student loan borrowers running into customer service issues as payments resume 03:37

As monthly payments for federally owned student loans restart after a pandemic-induced pause of more than three years, borrowers are facing myriad problems including long hold times for help and inaccurate billing statements, finds a report published on Friday.

Borrowers are frequently place on hold for more than an hour when calling their servicer, and many give up before getting assistance, a particular problem given the number of faulty and confusing bills being sent by student loan companies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in its findings.

Average call wait times to speak to a live representative have risen from 12 minutes in August 2023 to more than an hour, according to the agency, which notes borrowers calling their servicer in the last two weeks of October were put on hold an average 73 minutes. One consumer reportedly waited more than nine hours, or 565 minutes, to speak with a service representative, the agency noted.

Understandably, the longer folks are put on hold, the likelier they are to get frustrated and hang up before getting connected, with 47% doing just that in October, opposed to the August hang-up rate of 17%, according to the agency's findings.

How to spot student loan forgiveness scams 03:13

More than 1.25 million income-driven repayment plan applications were submitted between August and October, with more than 450,000 with a servicer pending for more than 30 days without resolution.

Processing times vary, with some services taking five times longer than others to process applications, putting borrowers at risk of having to make significantly higher payments than they can afford.

Faulty and confusing bills from loan service companies include premature due dates and inflated monthly payments based on outdated poverty guidelines, the CFPB found. 

The government in March 2020 announced the suspension of federal student loan payments, with interest also waived. Congress in June of 2023 passed legislation ending the pause, with payments resuming a few months ago. 

"The resumption of student loan payments means that borrowers are making billions of dollars of payments each month," CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a news release. "If student loan companies are cutting corners or sidestepping the law, this can pose serious risks to individuals and the economy."

The resumption of student loan payments coincided with an announcement by the Biden administration that it would forgive $9 billion in student debt for 125,000 borrowers. Another $5 billion in debt forgiveness for more than 80,000 borrowers came in December, bringing to $132 billion the total of approved debt cancellation by the administration for more than 3.6 million Americans.

The Supreme Court in June invalidated the administration's plan for broad-based student loan forgiveness that would have helped more than 40 million borrowers each erase as much as $20,000 in debt.

Borrowers can visit to apply for this latest round of forgiveness.

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