10 Democratic Senators Call on Education Secretary To Hold Missouri Student Loan Company Accountable for Failures


Ten Democratic Senators have united in calling for Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to take decisive action against the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA).

Citing a litany of alleged failures, including erroneous billing and poor customer service, the senators are urging Cardona to utilize the full extent of his authority to hold MOHELA accountable. This move comes amid growing concerns over the management of federal student loans and the need to protect borrowers from systemic shortcomings in loan servicing companies.

10 Democratic Senators Call on Education Secretary to Hold Missouri Student Loan Company Accountable for Failures

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Gage Skidmore)

The Senators' Concerns

In a letter addressed to Secretary Cardona, spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the senators highlight several alarming issues with MOHELA's operations. Chief among these concerns is the staggering number of billing errors that have affected over 2.5 million borrowers. These errors range from incorrect bill amounts to late billing, causing confusion and financial strain for students and graduates across the country.

Additionally, the senators express dismay over the prolonged wait times experienced by borrowers attempting to reach MOHELA's customer service center. With an average call wait time of 38 minutes, many borrowers find themselves frustrated and unable to obtain timely assistance with their loan inquiries or concerns. This lack of accessibility exacerbates the challenges already faced by individuals navigating the complexities of student loan repayment.

Furthermore, the senators point out that despite the Department of Education withholding $7.2 million from MOHELA due to billing mistakes, this punitive measure is insufficient to address the scale of the issue. Given MOHELA's receipt of $180 million from the Education Department in fiscal year 2023, the withheld amount represents only a fraction of the company's earnings. This disparity underscores the need for more substantial repercussions to incentivize better performance and accountability from loan servicing entities.

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MOHELA's Troubled Track Record

Among the four companies tasked with managing federal student loans for the Education Department, MOHELA stands out for its poor performance since the resumption of loan payments. Despite not being the largest servicer, MOHELA has garnered the highest number of complaints from borrowers, indicating systemic deficiencies in its operations. The senators' letter underscores the urgency of addressing these issues to safeguard the interests of student loan borrowers and ensure they receive the support and services they are entitled to.

In response to mounting pressure, the Education Department has initiated the transfer of over 1 million accounts from MOHELA to other loan servicers starting this month. While MOHELA requested the transfer, the move signals a recognition of the company's shortcomings and a commitment to addressing them. However, it remains to be seen whether this transition will effectively resolve the issues plaguing borrowers or merely shift them to different service providers.

Calls for Accountability and Reform

Senator Warren's hearing last month shed light on the broader challenges facing loan servicers in managing the restart of student loan payments following a three-year pandemic pause. According to a report released during the hearing, loan servicers collectively made over 3.9 million billing-related errors during this period, with MOHELA accounting for a significant portion of these mistakes. The senators assert that MOHELA's documented billing errors, coupled with its poor customer service record and lack of accountability, necessitate immediate action from the Education Department.

While the senators did not specify the precise actions they expect Secretary Cardona to take, they have requested a briefing by May 22nd to discuss potential measures for holding MOHELA accountable and protecting borrowers from future harm. This call to action reflects a broader push for reform within the student loan servicing industry, with advocates and policymakers alike demanding greater transparency, accountability, and consumer protections.

The concerted efforts of ten Democratic Senators to address the alleged failures of MOHELA underscore the urgent need for reform within the student loan servicing industry. With millions of borrowers relying on these companies for assistance with their loans, it is imperative that they receive accurate information, timely support, and fair treatment. Secretary Cardona's response to the senators' concerns will be closely watched as a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to improve the student loan system and alleviate the burdens faced by borrowers nationwide.

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