Skip main navigation.
 U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans - Link to Home Page

Other Accompanying Information |
Credit Management and Debt Collection
Improvement Act

The Department of Education has designed and implemented a comprehensive credit management and debt collection program that enables us to effectively administer our multi-billion-dollar student loan and other programs. The credit management and debt collection program covers each phase of the credit cycle-including prescreening of loan applicants, account servicing, collection, and close-out-and it conforms to the governmentwide policies in the Federal Claims Collection Standards, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-129, and the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA). As a result, the Department has made significant strides in student loan default management and prevention.

The Department has been working diligently with schools and partners in the student loan industry to reduce the cohort default rate. The fiscal year 2003 cohort default rate dropped to an all-time low of 4.5 percent. The low default rate is a function of the Department's improved borrower counseling and the steps we have taken in gatekeeping to remove schools with high rates from participating in the federal student loan programs.

Borrowers who default on student loans face serious repercussions, such as the withholding of federal income tax refunds and other federal payments, wage garnishment, adverse credit bureau reports, denial of further student aid, and prosecution. To avoid these sanctions, defaulters now have the option to consolidate their loans and establish an income-based repayment plan that more realistically matches their ability to pay.

The Department also continues to conduct computer matches with other federal agencies as part of our effort to strengthen the management and oversight of student financial assistance programs. The computer matches are designed to ensure that students meet various eligibility criteria and to increase the collections from students who have defaulted on their loans.

The Department of Education categorizes our debt into two basic categories: student loan debt, which accounts for approximately 99 percent of all of the Department's outstanding debts, and institutional and other administrative debt. The Department of Treasury granted the Department a permanent exemption from the cross-servicing requirements of the DCIA for defaulted student loans and approval to continue to service our own internal student loan debts because of our successful track record. However, we have been referring eligible student loan debts-those we previously tried to collect using all other available tools-to the Department of Treasury for tax refund offset since 1986.

The Department handles our institutional and administrative debts outside of the systems established for student loans. The Department was one of the first to participate in the Treasury Cross Servicing Program and has been referring delinquent debts since October 1996. As of September 30, 2005, we have forwarded approximately 99 percent of all institutional and administrative debts eligible for cross servicing to Treasury.