The U.S. Department of Education says there’s very little evidence that active-duty servicemembers are being charged unlawfully high interest rates on federally guaranteed student loans.
A review of the four biggest servicers, Navient Solutions, Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and Nelnet, found that they complied with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in the vast majority of cases: less than 1% of servicemembers who qualified for a rate reduction when they were called to active duty from 2009-2014 were denied one. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act caps the interest rate for such borrowers at 6%.
The results, which were announced Tuesday, come 12 months after the Department of Justice announced a $60 million settlement with Navient after concluding that the servicer had improperly denied active-duty military personnel SCRA benefits.
The Education Department outsources the management of $818.4 billion of guaranteed student loans to private servicers; many of these loans, including those serviced by Navient, have been securitized. The settlement had raised questions about whether Navient could be replaced, a cause of concern investors. That now seems less likely.
Spokeswoman Denise Horn declined to comment beyond the agency's written statement.
Following the settlement, the Education Department changed its policy to require servicers to immediately adjust interest rates on student loans when servicemembers are called to active duty; previously they had to apply for the lower rate and show proof of their active-duty status. On Tuesday, the Education Department said that 141,000 servicemembers have since had their interest rates lowered.
The agency is also planning a separate review of the practices of seven non-profit servicers as well as commercial Family Federal Education Loan Program servicers.