Navient, formerly one of the biggest student loan servicers in the U.S., agreed to a settlement with Pennsylvania and dozens of other states Thursday to cancel more than $1.8 billion in student loans and pay nearly $100 million in restitution to borrowers.
The agreement comes after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro led a lawsuit against Navient for issuing predatory subprime student loans, as well as coaxing borrowers into long-term forbearances that run contrary to the company’s promise to find the best possible repayment options.
Those forbearances had payments of as low as $0 piled on interest, even when other options—such as income-driven repayment plans—could have resulted in a lower balance for borrowers.
The settlement will affect hundreds of thousands of people living in 38 states and Washington, D.C. As part of the settlement, Navient is canceling the remaining student loan balances for more than 66,000 borrowers, totaling $1.7 billion.
Additionally, more than 350,000 people in 32 states who took out federal student loans through Navient will receive $260 each in restitution payments, to be paid this spring. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 15,000 people will receive more than $70 million in restitution payments and student debt cancellations, Shapiro’s office said.
A list of the states that participated in the lawsuit is available at the settlement website.
People who had student loans through Navient welcomed the news.
One woman, Ashley Hardin, told the New York Times she took out more than $100,000 in Navient loans to attend the now-defunct Brooks School of Photography in California, and pays more than $1,000 a month in student loan costs. She hopes to have the debt wiped away as part of the settlement.
“This has been a long time coming and justice was definitely served,” she told the Times.
If you’re one of the affected private borrowers, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll receive a notice of your loan cancellations by July, as well as a refund of any payments you made after June 2021, according to Shapiro’s office.
If you’re one of the federal borrowers, you’ll receive a postcard in the mail this spring, the press release announcing the settlement says. The only thing you need to do is make sure your address is updated at the Department of Education’s financial aid website.
More information is available at the settlement website.
“Navient repeatedly and deliberately put profits ahead of its borrowers – it engaged in deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students who it knew would struggle to pay loans back, and placed an unfair burden on people trying to improve their lives through education,” Shapiro said in a statement announcing the settlement.
“Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior, provides much needed relief to Pennsylvania borrowers, and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again.”
Despite the settlement, Navient continues to deny any wrongdoing.
“The company's decision to resolve these matters, which were based on unfounded claims, allows us to avoid the additional burden, expense, time and distraction to prevail in court,” Navient chief legal officer Mark Heleen said in a statement.
Navient was formerly the processor of federal student loans for more than 5.6 million people. But in October, the company transferred all of its federal loans to Maximus, a government services contractor that pulls in billions in revenue each year. Those loans are now administered under the name Aidvantage.
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