Over 44 million Americans are finding themselves in over their heads when it comes to student loan debt. It can be hard to see an end in sight when facing six figures of student loan debt following graduation, but for many, student loans are almost considered a “given” if someone wants to pursue a higher education. Private student loan companies are now trying to make it even more enticing to take out more money to cover these costs.
In the grand scheme of things, government loans still constitute the majority of what is borrowed. Currently, private student loans account for less than 10 percent of all student loan debt, which is a relatively small percentage.
Private lenders have been hoping for this to change and have been actively lobbying for legislation that would lessen the restrictions the government has on student loans, specifically when it comes to graduate students.
This legislation, known as the Prosper Act, was written and proposed by Republican lawmakers last year. It caps the amount of federal student aid graduate students can receive. This cap on federal aid leaves a gap between what the students are able to borrow and how much tuition costs. Concerns have been expressed that students will have no choice but to seek private loan options to pay for the remainder of these costs not covered by government aid.
The next step is for these private loan companies to make their product more appealing to borrowers. What better way to do this than by making friends with the borrowers themselves? Many of these companies, in fact, are now making their product seem more like they are a lifestyle company than a lender.
One such company, Laurel Road, has partnered with MoviePass, a movie theater subscription service. The company has announced that if an individual refinances his or her student loans with Laurel Road, that person will be eligible for one year’s subscription.
Another private lender, Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi) has made small changes to its branding by changing how it refers to its borrowers. Instead of “customers,” these individuals are now referred to as “members.” It may seem like a small change, but this difference in designation also includes invitations to exclusive “member only” events, like cocktail parties and cooking classes. SoFi brands itself as more of a social club than what it actually is– a private financial institution. In 2017, SoFi offered 323 nationwide member events for its over 14,000 “members.” The company also offers an app that allows its members who meet at events to communicate to each other through the app.
The Laurel Road partnership is just one example of private lending companies trying to rebrand student loan debt as something more “fun.” The problem is further compounded when these loan companies do very little to educate their borrowers on the terms of the loans. When borrowers fail to pay back the debt as it becomes due, many of these lenders have been accused of illegally harassing their customers. Borrowers have become so desperate to pay back their debts, in fact, that some have even resorted to game show antics to find a way out. Recently, a new game show called “Paid Off with Michael Torpey” has offered student borrowers a chance to compete on TV with the prize being having their student debt paid off. The series is premiering on TruTV in July 2018. Many have criticized this new program, saying it trivializes a very serious, growing problem. However, it does demonstrate what lengths borrowers will go to in order to get some relief from their crippling debt.
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For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.