Many students rely on the Education Department, which administers $1.3 trillion in federal student loans, to finance their higher education. The work of servicing those loans — sending bills, collecting payments, guiding borrowers through their repayment options, and handling any problems that arise — is outsourced.
Nine vendors currently hold those contracts, which expire in 2019. The Obama administration announced last year that it would replace that patchwork approach with a new, single web portal through which all borrowers would obtain information on their loans. The contract to create the new system is expected to be one of the largest nonmilitary federal contracts.
Last month, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, rescinded key parts of the contract’s bid solicitation documents. The move stripped away some consumer protections and suggested that the department might be reconsidering the project entirely.
But on Friday, Ms. DeVos made another set of changes to the contract solicitation and affirmed her commitment to the one-platform approach.
“Moving to a single servicer instead of nine servicers will create one platform with a single and consistent brand, improving the user’s experience,” Ms. DeVos wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that outlined her changes to the project.
The biggest change that Ms. DeVos’s department made on Friday was to eliminate a requirement that the new system — to be devised by a single vendor — support back-end subcontractors. That provision had been created to ensure that the myriad vendors currently servicing federal student loans would be able to bid for a piece of the new system’s action.
Instead, the new vendor will now be allowed to service all federal student loans itself, if it chooses.
That possibility is of concern to some consumer…