Just two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the US House Committee on Education and Labor about its fear of a federal lending program meltdown. To the best of her ability, she tried to qualm the legislators' fears and to convince them that negative speculations were exaggerated. “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL,” she said. “A small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped originating new loans.”
However, the Department of Education’s request for Lender of Last Resort (LLR) preparation painted a somewhat different picture. In a letter sent to 35 guarantee agencies, the Financial Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Warder laid out the basic LLR provisions and asked that the guarantee agencies quickly respond with plans for enacting the emergency program, should the need arise.
With lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program at increasing rates, both legislators and families have been feeling uneasy about college loan options. And while the department maintained that things were largely under control, the letters spoke for themselves.
The LLR provisions state that when a student eligible for federal aid is denied by at least two lenders, guarantee agencies and lenders who have signed agreements with them are responsible for awarding the loan. Being nonprofit entities, the guaranty agencies would use government funding to repay lenders for any student defaults.
To be certain that individuals have quick access to student loans, regardless of decisions made by cautious lenders, the department has asked that guaranty agencies submit their plans to put the LLR program in place. Among other things, they were asked to prepare a timeline for issuing LLR loans to students, provide a method for informing students about LLR eligibility and plan for meeting the increased administrative requirements. Recipients of the letter were given up to 30 days to respond with a new outline for their LLR program.