Access to a government database of newly employed workers has enabled the department to make much more effective use of private collection agencies. And it can go after even decades-old student loans, because there's no statute of limitations on them, unlike most consumer debt. As a result, the Education Department collected $5.7 billion in defaulted student loans in the past fiscal year, more than twice as much as in 1998. For current loans that go into default, the department now projects it will ultimately retrieve every dollar of principal, plus almost 20% in fees and overdue interest. The aggressive approach has sparked an outcry from some borrowers, consumer advocates and even some bankruptcy-court judges. They complain that the department runs over some former students who have suffered reversals of fortune.
Some who favor a softer stance argue that student loans are ...
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