Education Lender Agrees to Pay Borrowers $9.75 Million in Class-Action Lawsuit Settlement
April 21, 2010
If you borrowed federal student loans from NorthStar Education Finance, you may get a small refund as part of a class action settlement concerning NorthStar Education Finance’s suspension of its T.H.E. Repayment Bonus loan discount program.
As a non-profit education lender, NorthStar Education Finance had one of the best loan discount programs, which provided a 1% interest rate reduction for undergraduate students and 1.3% for graduate students for on-time payment. Borrowers who were 60 or more days late lost the benefit but could regain it when the account became current again. More than 95% of borrowers received this benefit.
NorthStar Education Finance suspended its loan discounts for existing borrowers in addition to new borrowers on February 18, 2008 because of the credit crisis. Many other lenders suspended discount programs in the aftermath of the credit crisis, but only for new borrowers.
NorthStar Education Finance had been fairly consistent in including the statement “this amount is based on current financial market conditions and portfolio performance and is therefore subject to change” in connection with descriptions of the T.H.E. Repayment Bonus on its web site and marketing materials. Still, many borrowers who lost the discounts through no fault of their own felt as though they had been subjected to bait and switch by the lender. On July 14, 2008, Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP filed a class-action lawsuit against NorthStar Education Finance, alleging breach of contract.
The $9.75 million class action settlement was approved by US District Judge Donovan Frank on April 8, 2010. Borrowers who had a loan in repayment and who were less than 60 days late on their loan payments on February 18, 2008 will be eligible for the settlement. The settlement will be paid to borrowers over a five-year period by crediting their student loan accounts. The amount of the credit will be based on each borrower’s loan balance. Eligible borrowers will receive $81 on average.
Mark Kantrowitz is a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid, student loans, scholarships and paying for college.