Image of the Lafayette County Court House building in Florida.
For some borrowers, keeping up with student loan payments can be an impossible task. And now, many who have defaulted or fallen behind on long-ago federal student loans are discovering that the government has placed liens on their homes.
While in the past it was a rarity for the government to sue over an unpaid loan, the times have definitely changed. In a bid to recoup a whopping $137 billion in defaults, the feds decided to use debt-collection law firms to bring student loan borrowers to court. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education has partnered with firms in 19 of the nation’s 94 district courts according to newsworks.
So far this year, the government is on par to more than quadruple its number of student loan lawsuits. The government sued more than 3,000 borrowers nationwide for student loan debt since 2015. In the Philadelphia area alone, more than 200 borrowers became defendants in federal cases.
But many are wondering why the government is resorting to lawsuits, especially since it has other ways to collect debt such as garnishing wages, tax returns, Social Security, and disability benefits.
In addition, with more than 3,000 people defaulting on their federal student loans each day, no one is quite sure how the government decides who to take to court. So far, the borrowers being targeted in lawsuits attended training programs, like tractor-trailer driving programs, secretarial and beauty schools—earning degrees that don’t translate into big earnings.
And most of them took out relatively small loans in the 1970s or 1980s, which leads some to believe the government is acting before it’s “too late.” Although it is placing liens on houses, sources say this is mainly to put pressure on the borrowers to start paying up. The government isn’t actually interested in taking a person’s home—it would much rather have its money back.
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