Yesterday’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) field hearing in Wisconsin was designed to address how student loan servicers could better serve millions of struggling borrowers. But instead of mandating that servicers provide more after-the-fact counseling, the CFPB could better help borrowers through reforms aimed at enhancing their financial literacy on the front end.
The CFPB is right to be concerned about growing burden of student debt both on the borrowers and the broader economy. Total outstanding debt, and the share of loans in default, are at historic highs. And although countless studies show that a college degree is still worth the investment, the majority of loan defaults are wracked up by students who don’t complete college. They therefore don’t enjoy the wage premium that comes with a four-year degree.
But in its quest to hold loan servicers accountable for the student debt problem, the CFPB is overlooking the behavior of borrowers. It should also be thinking about ways to enable the students to make better borrowing choices.
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