New Report Describes How A Little-Known Deal Created the Biggest Student Loan Company in the World; CWA and SBPC Launch Project to Spotlight Complaints of Abuse By Stealth Student Loan Giant Maximus
March 14, 2022 | Washington, DC — Last week, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released the results of an investigation into the world’s largest student loan company, uncovering new evidence of systemic mismanagement, failure, and abuse. The subject of this investigation, a little-known federal contractor called Maximus Federal Services (Maximus), recently replaced scandal-plagued student loan giant Navient Corporation as a principal student loan contractor for the U.S. Department of Education and also operates under the name Aidvantage. The company directly manages student debt held by nearly 13 million borrowers and indirectly serves millions of others, many of whom struggle to make ends meet. In response to the new, shocking report, which offers new evidence of misleading and sloppy conduct by the company, CWA and SBPC launched AidvantageWatch—a new project to ensure fair treatment for millions of people with student debt whose loans are now managed by Aidvantage.
The new report, Customer Disservice: Examining Maximus, the Federal Contractor that Just Became the Largest Student Loan Company in the World, is available here.
A compendium of exhibits documenting sloppy and potentially unlawful conduct by Aidvantage is available here.
A new blog post offering advice to borrowers with loans serviced by Aidvantage is available here.
“CWA has been raising concerns about Maximus for years, including the harm it has done to its workers and to people who need to access government services,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “We owe it to student loan borrowers, including thousands of CWA members, to hold the company accountable for the troubling findings released in today’s report. Government officials who administer these programs should take a closer look at the problems at Maximus when awarding and renewing contracts.”
“When student loan companies cut corners and skirt the law to pad their profits, the most vulnerable people with student debt are always forced to pay the price,” said SBPC Executive Director Mike Pierce. “Our investigation offers an early warning to regulators and people with student debt: Maximus and Aidvantage are now running the same failed servicing playbook that left millions of Navient borrowers financially bruised and broken. This newly minted student loan giant must change course before it is too late.”
The new report, which reviews court filings, public records, consumer complaints, and narratives provided by individual borrowers spanning nearly a decade, finds that Maximus routinely and profoundly bungled its role as a student loan contractor for the U.S. Department of Education. These findings include evidence of:
- Sloppy student loan servicing. In the weeks since Maximus first replaced Navient as a principal student loan contractor for the U.S. Department of Education in late 2021, borrowers have reported facing roadblocks when seeking to access their new Aidvantage accounts online, receiving inaccurate information when inquiring about when loan payments will resume, and missing paperwork related to the transfer of loan servicing between these firms.
- Unfair debt collection practices. Litigation filed on behalf of low-income student loan borrowers alleges that Maximus has violated borrowers’ rights in its role as the sole servicer for student loans in default.
- Unlawful wage garnishment and improper seizure of public benefits. Maximus also faces litigation alleging it improperly subjected borrowers in default to draconian forced collections measures like the seizure of tax refunds.
The report aims to bring greater transparency and accountability to the federal student loan system by exposing the many roles Maximus plays and the harm done to borrowers.
A Project to Ensure Fair Treatment for Borrowers with Accounts Managed by Maximus/Aidvantage
In response to the findings outlined in this report, CWA and SBPC launched AidvantageWatch, a project to spotlight abuses by the student loan giant and ensure fair treatment for all people with student debt. Borrowers can visit AidvantageWatch online at www.aidvantagewatch.org to share their experience with Maximus/Aidvantage and to learn more about how to alert regulators and enforcement officials if they encounter deceptive or misleading conduct by the student loan company.
MAXIMUS, Inc. (NYSE: MMS), a multi-billion dollar publicly traded corporation, is the parent company of Maximus Federal Services. Maximus has entrenched itself in nearly every phase of the student loan life cycle, currently holding more than $800 million in contracts with the U.S. Department of Education.
In December 2021, Maximus replaced Navient as a principal loan servicer for the federal government. For nearly a decade, Maximus has also managed the platform used for all student loan borrowers in default, known as the Debt Management Collections System (DMCS). In addition to maintaining all records and information related to defaulted loans, DMCS designates individual borrowers for tax refund seizure and social security offset. Maximus also manages the call centers responsible for assisting federal student loan borrowers in default, known as the U.S. Department of Education Default Resolution Group. In total, Maximus’s Aidvantage and DMCS contracts make it responsible for directly managing almost 13 million borrowers’ student loan accounts.
Further, Maximus plays a key part in millions of additional borrowers’ repayment through its role as a “Business Process Operations” vendor for the Office of Federal Student Aid, where it answers borrowers’ repayment questions and runs call centers for the federal government’s student loan arm. Taken together, these functions make Maximus the largest student loan company in the world.
During its time as a contractor for the Department of Education, Maximus has been accused of a shocking range of abuses. Maximus’s mismanagement of the government’s student loan debt collection system led a federal judge to take the unusual step of holding then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt of court for seizing wages of former for-profit college students in violation of a court order.
In the past, Maximus has lost contracts to administer state Medicaid programs due to its “continued failure” that resulted in substantial backlogs and some nursing homes halting acceptance of Medicaid-pending seniors. Maximus’s track record has also included wage theft and anti-labor union practices on its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services federal contract.
The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields.
The Student Borrower Protection Center is a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating the burden of student debt for millions of Americans. SBPC engages in advocacy, policymaking, and litigation strategy to rein in industry abuses, protect borrowers’ rights, and advance economic opportunity for the next generation of students.