From the Executive Director’s Desk: Who’s Protecting Students?
The opinions expressed below are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members of CARE’s Board of Directors or its’ Board of Advisors.
New Director & New Directions
Just as I thought a government agency was taking meaningful actions against deceptive and fraudulent practices in the financial services marketplace, President Trump appointed Richard Mulvaney, who also serves as Director of the OMB, to serve as the Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Since the appointment was made, Acting Director Mulvaney has clearly demonstrated through his actions and public statements, his intention to roll back the consumer protections that were put in place by the CFPB since the agency’s creation under the Obama Administration.
I’d like to address the Acting Director’s most recent announcement that will have a direct impact on students who take out loans to help fund their education. This announcement comes on the heels of Mulvaney’s recent attempt to roll back consumer protections against payday lenders.
CFPB No Longer Protecting Students?
Earlier this month, Mulvaney announced his intention to fold the Bureau’s Office of Students and Young Consumers into the Office of Financial Education, effectively taking away its role as enforcer of fair practices in the student loan industry. Its new mandate is to focus on advocacy, coordination, and education. Not surprisingly, the change comes just as the CFPB was attempting to address abuses in the student loan marketplace by taking legal action against a large student loan servicer. The CFPB accused this company of misallocating payments, failing to provide consumers with clear information on lower cost options, and steering low-income borrowers into making higher payments than required.
At the same time, Mulvaney announced he was suspending a long-standing plan to write new rules for student loan debt collection agencies. The proposed new rules would have:
- Created consistent industry-wide standards for the entire student loan debt collection industry.
- Established new provisions to hold debt collectors accountable to student loan borrowers if errors occur if collectors break the law.
- Provided student loan borrowers with access to clear, timely information.
- Improved publicly available data to support research and policymaking.
Furthermore, Mulvaney announced plans to remove the “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations” in the financial services industry. Unfortunately, for consumers, this appears to be the start of more changes to come at the CFPB that will further reduce its oversight and enforcement powers.
While advocacy, coordination, and education are critical, they are not substitutes for fair practices, appropriate regulations and laws. Consumers can learn how to manage their personal finances, but that knowledge alone can’t protect them from misleading, fraudulent or abusive industry practices.
Who will protect consumers now?
I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Anna Flores joined CARE as its first Executive Director in 2015 and helped to bring the organization into official 501(c)(3) status. Previously, Anna worked as a VP for American Express and has years of experience working with volunteer-driven organizations throughout the Washington, D.C. area.