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Don't depend on the government for student loan debt relief

When students elect to continue their post-secondary educational journeys, in order to be able to afford tuition, books, housing and other school-related expenses, many apply for student loans.

There is nothing inherently wrong with taking out loans to further one's education. But the path to a college degree is often fraught withe unforeseen obstacles that can impede even the most devoted students' progress and prevent them from obtaining their degrees.

Even when they succeed in their pursuit of degrees, the employment market can be unstable and make it exceedingly difficult to find well-paying jobs in their fields. These factors can lead to people defaulting on their student loans and facing aggressive debt collection practices.

Trump administration offers protection — to the creditors

Students will find few friends in the Trump administration. NPR obtained an internal document from the Department of Education (DOE), which is spearheaded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The memo argues that these lenders deserve protection from state rules with far more teeth to them than those on the federal level.

The memo appears to target consumer protections at the state levels for some of the 44 million students who are indebted for educational loans.

Administration no friend to struggling debtors

This is not the first time that the administration has aligned itself with debt collectors rather than indebted students. Last year, the DeVos' Education Department stopped working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to oversee loan servicers. Previously the CFPB sued the nation's largest loan servicer, Navient, accusing them of the mismanagement of borrower payments. They also allegedly encouraged struggling borrowers to agree to unaffordable plans.

Sea change under Trump

Disarming the CFPB "is a radical change," according to a former CFPB enforcement attorney and University of Utah law professor. He noted the DOE worked with regulators — both state and federal — to regulate student lenders and offer protection to student borrowers.

Trump and DeVos effectively ended all information-sharing arrangements with the Bureau, increasing the difficulties of policing the lending industries.

The Trump administration is also attempting to bar all regulation and oversight at the state government level. The former attorney said that "[i]t appears that the Trump administration doesn't want anyone to focus on whether the debt collectors are treating student loan borrowers fairly."

How this affects indebted borrowers

Without oversight and protection, the hammer can come down hard on those who owe the government money for educational loans. On top of monthly bills for rent, utilities and other financial obligations, this can present a fiscal nightmare for those struggling to meet their commitments.

One option may be to consider filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. While bankruptcy will not discharge student loan debts, it can eliminate other consumer debts, thus making it possible to catch up on past due loan payments and keep students out of default.

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