On May 16, the CFPB published analysis of a student loan industry data sample, which indicates that nine out of ten of the highest-risk borrowers are not enrolled in federal affordable repayment plans. The report, entitled Update from the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman, is based on data the Bureau received in response to a voluntary request (Appendix C) for information it sent to several student loan servicers seeking information regarding practices used on borrowers transitioning from default to income-driven repayment plans (IDR). As previously reported in InfoBytes, the 2016 report highlighted the fact that “the majority of borrowers who cure a default and seek to enroll in IDR do so by first rehabilitating their defaulted debt. However, these borrowers describe a range of communication, paperwork processing, and customer service breakdowns at every stage of the default-to-IDR transition.” The Bureau found that data provided in response to its request support the following preliminary observations:

  • More than 90 percent of borrowers who rehabilitated one or more defaulted loans were not enrolled and making IDR payments within the first nine months after “curing” a default.
  • Borrowers were five times more likely to default for a second time if they did not enroll in an IDR.
  • As previously projected in 2016, nearly 30 percent of borrowers who exited default through rehabilitation defaulted for a second time within 24 months and more than 40 percent of borrowers re-defaulted within three years.
  • More than 75 percent of borrowers who default for a second time did not successfully pay a single bill to their student loan servicers. The CFPB estimates that “as many as four out of every five borrowers who rehabilitate a student loan could be eligible for a zero dollar ‘payment’ under an IDR plan, suggesting many of these defaults were preventable, even for the most economically vulnerable consumers.”
  • Borrowers who used the consolidation option, which requires borrowers to enroll in an IDR plan (except in rare circumstances) to resolve their student loan defaults, are more likely to immediately begin to repay their debts successfully.

According to the CFPB, the data reinforce the Bureau’s concern that “hundreds of thousands of borrowers who recently cured their default through rehabilitation are unable to successfully access a stable and affordable repayment plan and soon end up back in default.” Further, the Bureau found support for its position that “borrowers who cure default through consolidation appear to fare much better, particularly in the first months after exiting default.”