The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) recently announced the acquisition of the Student Loan Alliance® (SLA), which heralds a new chapter in counseling services for consumers struggling to repay their student loans.
Student loan debt recently surpassed credit card debt at $1.3 trillion, and is now second only to mortgages in terms of total consumer debt. Among the 43 million total federal student borrowers, 7.3 million are at least 90 days delinquent on their loans, 5 million are in default and millions more are in negatively-amortizing income-driven repayment plans. These figures indicate that student debt is likely to drive the next major financial crisis affecting millions of Americans, with spillover effects already impacting the market for homes, cars, and basic consumer goods and services.
Currently, there is no established student loan counseling provider, and many clients receive misleading information from servicers and debt collectors. According to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), student loan debt collection is among the five highlighted areas where the Bureau’s examiners have uncovered legal violations.
“The need for a high quality, comprehensive, and consumer-driven program to assist student loan borrowers is urgent”, says NFCC president Susan C. Keating.
In the fall of 2015, the NFCC will expand on the foundation created by the Student Loan Alliance® and launch the nation’s largest and most network of comprehensively certified student loan counselors. All participating counselors will be required to complete specialized training that covers the complete inventory of student loan programs associated with repayment, forbearance, or other forgiveness options. In addition to the training requirement, counselors will have to successfully complete an additional round of examination to earn special certification. Offered along with the credit and housing counseling certification already recognized for setting the highest standards, this will be the most thorough and comprehensive certification process for student loan counselors in the country. Stringent certification guidelines will ensure that each counselor is prepared to skillfully serve the needs of student borrowers. Those who receive counseling will benefit from a thorough financial review that will identify options based on their unique circumstances and individual needs. This holistic approach, already a standard among NFCC counselors, will empower borrowers to make informed decisions about their student loan repayment options and take charge of their financial lives.
For more information, visit www.nfcc.org.