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   WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal consumer finance watchdog is expanding its oversight to Sallie Mae and other companies that collect student loan payments.

   A rule issued Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau extends the agency's supervision to nonbank companies that manage large volumes of student loans on behalf of lenders.

   The CFPB already oversees banks that service student loans, but it says most student loans are serviced by nonbank companies. It says the scrutiny is needed to ensure servicers comply with consumer laws at a time when more people are falling behind on their student loan payments.

   Nonbank loan servicers like Sallie Mae manage borrowers' accounts and answer their questions. Borrowers have complained that the companies lose paperwork or fail to credit payments.

   Sallie Mae also is the biggest U.S. student lender.

   Martha Holler, a spokeswoman for Sallie Mae, said that as the largest U.S. servicer of student loans, "We have been engaged with the CFPB in the review of our lending, servicing and collections operations."

   In addition to Sallie Mae, formally known as SLM Corp., other nonbank companies that service student loans include American Education Services, Nelnet Inc. and ACS Education Services, which is owned by Xerox Corp. The seven largest servicers cover a combined total of about 49 million borrower accounts, representing most of the student loan servicing market, according to the CFPB. The agency said it expects all seven companies will come under its supervision.

   Outstanding student debt in the U.S. totals about $1.2 trillion, according to the CFPB, and an estimated 7 million student loan borrowers are currently in default.

   Under the new rule, which takes effect March 1, any nonbank student loan servicer that handles more than 1 million borrower accounts will be subject to the agency's oversight. That means the agency will monitor the companies and examine their internal procedures, data and other information.

   While borrowers usually can choose their student lender, they normally have no choice over which company services the loan.

   "Student loan borrowers should be able to rest assured that when they make a payment toward their loans, the company that takes their money is playing by the rules," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "This rule brings new oversight to those large student loan servicers that touch tens of millions of borrowers."

   The agency is the primary federal supervisor for a range of industries, including payday loan companies, student lenders, mortgage companies, credit bureaus and debt collectors. It was established by the 2010 financial overhaul law enacted in response to the crisis that started in 2008.

Published in National News

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- An East St. Louis couple faces up to a year and a half in federal prison now that they’ve admitted scheming to steal nearly $47,000 in student loan money.

Antwayne Crumble and Danyelle McNeil pleaded guilty Monday in East St. Louis. Charges were conspiring to commit student loan fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. Authorities say the couple used personal information from 28 friends and relatives. They took the information and applied to online undergraduate programs at the University of Phoenix for a year beginning in September 2008.

The pair then enrolled the fake students in classes and applied for student loans. They obtained loans for 16 of the applications.

Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- An evangelical Christian college located near the southwest Missouri resort town of Branson is making it difficult, if not impossible, for students to obtain any loans.

The Springfield News-Leader says the College of the Ozarks has stopped certifying private student loans. It's barred state and federal loans since the 1990s.

Longtime President Jerry C. Davis says "the driving force behind this is that debt is bad."

Of the school's 1,350 students, 250 to 300 of them currently receive a loan, often from a hometown bank. The college is taking steps to help students adjust. They include expanding summer work opportunities and freezing room-and-board costs.

The college itself is debt free. It makes sure it has cash in hand before doing things like building a residence hall.
Published in Local News

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