Mitt Romney promises to usher private lenders back into the federal student loan market in a bid to decrease default rates and increase efficiency if he becomes president, but such a move could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over a decade without saving students money, according to several higher education analysts.
The prime beneficiaries, critics say, would be banks and loan companies that stand to reap a financial boon through subsidies to make nearly risk-free, government-backed loans. They are the same firms that benefited from the system that existed for decades before 2010, when President Obama required that the government issue all federal student loans.
“The old guaranteed loan program was rife with lobbyists and will go down in history as a system that existed far longer than it needed to simply because it was enriching private companies,” said Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. Inviting private lenders back into the program, he said, appears misguided: “What’s in it for students or taxpayers? Nothing.”
Private lenders, however, argue that Obama’s move in 2010 cost the industry thousands of jobs as companies went out of business or shut down divisions that dealt with the servicing of such loans. And the Romney campaign says reintroducing private competition would spur innovation that could help prevent students from borrowing more than they should.