Data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal shows that paycheck garnishment for student loan borrowers was up 45 percent over the previous decade for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013. The Education Department is actively collecting from borrowers who have defaulted on federal student loans even as debate rages on about what the government should do to help.
Borrowers are in default after missing 12 monthly payments. The government can begin taking as much as 15 percent of post-tax wages without court approval at that point. Though there are different circumstances that land borrowers in this position, many of those who are falling into default, according to the WSJ, are professionals who borrowed a ton to get their advanced degrees, or those who never finished. And many who find themselves getting their wages garnished end up in that position for quite some time.
“Wage garnishment is a tool of last resort used by the department to recover defaulted loans,” said Dorie Nolt, the spokesperson for the Education Department.
Some say the Education Department shouldn’t lend quite so much money. Others say there isn’t enough being done to let borrowers know about the repayment options.
And then there are the legislative measures that could be taken but haven’t. President Obama just signed an executive order to put a cap on student loan payments. An executive order doesn’t require Congressional approval, but they are also usually limited in scope.
The Senate voted this week on legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance their loans, legislation that was heavily supported by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the President. How do you think that went? The legislation failed. Democrats thought it would be a good idea to let borrowers find a way to reduce student loan interest — which can get as high as nine percent — to as little as 3.86 percent. Republicans thought it wouldn’t be effective.
“Students can understand that this bill won’t make college more affordable. They understand it won’t reduce the amount of money they have to borrow. And students know it won’t do a thing to fix the that’s depriving so many young Americans of jobs,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R, KY).
However, there are others who say that this sort of help is necessary if borrowers are to reach their potential.
“This issue deserves more than a partisan response. Allowing students and families to refinance their student loan debt should not be a partisan issue; it’s the right thing to do,” reads a statement from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.“We will continue to fight alongside Sen. Warren and others, including the courageous few Republicans who stood today with students and families, to chip away at this mountain of debt and reclaim the promise of higher education as a pathway to opportunity and success.”
The student loan crisis (yes, crisis, with a trillion dollars in debt) is hampering the financial efforts and stability of many Americans. In turn, it’s become a hurdle to greater economic growth for the country as a whole. Clearly we have to start somewhere, and helping those who are already in debt is a great place.