How the CFPB is trying to keep the student loan debt bubble from bursting

On Thursday, the CFPB called for the public’s input on how private student loans could be more affordable and repayment options could be improved.

As reported by the Huffington Post, outstanding student loan debt has ballooned to more than $1.1 trillion as of 2012. Private student loans make up about 15% of that debt. The federal government backs most of the student loan debt.  However, private student loans are more problematic. In a press release, the CFPB reported that private student loans generally have higher and variable interest rates and may not allow borrowers any flexibility to manage payments in times of hardship.

The CFPB is accepting comments on the repayment issue through its website until April 8th of this year and will make the responses available to the public shortly thereafter.If you have ideas, you may comment through the website here.

The CFPB acknowledges that the private student loan market is a small piece of this puzzle. CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman, Rohit Chopra theorizes that unsustainable student loan debt is holding back a full economic recovery and is actually dragging the economy down. Sources show that young consumers are having to hold off on buying homes and cars after graduation. A study from the Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) showed that from 2005 to 2011, average student loan debt grew 58%, from $17,233 to $27,253. The Atlantic reported that the rate of adults in their late twenties who own homes has slipped since 1980. A study from the Federal Reserve found that only 9% of 29-34 year olds took out a first mortgage from 2009 to 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Data from the Pew Research Center revealed 32% of households headed by adults younger than 35 were paying off auto loans in 2010, down from 44% in 2007. Data from Huffington Post.

Student loans are designed to provide opportunities to borrowers to improve their way of life but it can also be incredibly stifling in the same way. Students must be informed consumers when deciding to borrow. The CFPB and the Department of Education collaborated to make information easily attainable and understandable. If you are planning on pursuing a higher education, ask schools for the financial aid shopping sheet or similar data. Knowledge is power and student loan debt is not necessarily “good debt.”

Consumers hold the power with CFPB’s Complaint Database

I, like most of us, have been dissatisfied with service provided by my credit card company or my bank and the first thing I want to do is express my frustration. Most times, I complain to the institution directly. While it is tempting to sometimes take my complaint to a regulatory agency, I have always declined to do so thinking that my complaint will just end up in a stack of papers on someone’s desk not to be seen for months. The new Complaint Database created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) may have changed my mind.

The enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act led to the creation of the CFPB. One of its responsibilities is to accept complaints from consumers about credit cards, mortgages, banking products and services private student loans, and other consumer loans.

Since launching the database, the CFPB has received tens of thousands of complaints that the general public can browse through a searchable online complaint database. The data can be searched using the company name, the zip code, the complaint issue, and more.

The CFPB published a report on complaints received from the database launch on July 21, 2011 to June 1, 2012. Key findings from the report include:

  • CFPB received about 45,630 consumer complaints
    • 16,840 credit card complaints
    • 19,250 mortgage complaints
    • 6,490 bank products and services complaints
    • 1,270 private student loan complaints
  • How complaints reached the CFPB
    • 44% submitted through the website
    • 39% referred from other regulatory agencies
    • 11% through telephone calls
    • 6% by mail, email, and fax

Consumer Response: A Snapshot of Complaints Received, p.4. June 19, 2012.

The report explains the complaint process and shares various stories of consumers who achieved success through the database. What I found most appealing is that the CFPB’s Consumer Response Team will follow up on all complaints that are sent to the companies. The complaints receive priority if the company does not timely respond or the consumer disputes the company’s response. Consumers have support throughout the process.

So the next time you feel like your financial service company is giving you the run-around, you have another resource available to you. The CFPB’s U.S.-based contact centers take calls with little-to-no wait times and provides services in 187 languages and for hearing- and speech-impaired consumers via a toll-free telephone number. If you have a complaint about financial products or services, visit

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