Post Episode 31: Journalists give resources for digging into student loans and keeping an eye on scammers

Crooks are capitalizing on recent repayment freeze and loan forgiveness to trick borrowers

InvestigateTV – In this month’s episode of POST, we discuss stories about rising student loan debt across America, how student loan borrowers could be falling victim to scams and what government leaders plan to do to address these concerns.

Rachel DePompa, an InvestigateTV national consumer reporter and Director of Investigations at WWBT in Richmond, Virginia and Adam Rhodes, a training director for IRE, joined the show to discuss the student loan crisis and how consumers can stay on top of the ever-changing information.

Many student loan borrowers have been awaiting loan forgiveness, especially those who are still paying off their loans well into their 60′s. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Americans 62 years of age or older are the group with the highest average loan debt amount.

“I have yet to meet a person who says my one student loan covered the cost of college. There’s a gap in the funding here. People are scrambling to fill it in many different ways from work study to getting as many scholarships they can, any grants if they’re eligible. The gap in funding shocks people, shocks parents,” DePompa said.

With the pause on student loans extended again, DePompa said scammers have been taking advantage as borrowers look ahead to when they may have to restart payments.

“They’re already sending out emails to people saying, ‘hey, we want to reconnect. We’re your loan servicer. Can you fill out this information so we make sure it’s correct?’ But it’s not your loan servicer. So you have to be really careful if you have your loans on pause right now,” DePompa said.

One thing to watch out for is scammers will often put fake phone numbers online or spoof real numbers.

“The best course of action here is to reach out yourself. Never really accept random phone calls, random emails, random texts about this topic. You need to find the person on your paperwork and reach out yourself and login because that’s the best way to make sure you don’t get scammed,” DePompa said.

When it comes to researching college programs and student loans, Rhodes gave a number of resources for parents and students (current or prospective) to use.

One, the Education Data Initiative, gives a number of different data points useful for journalists, citizens and college students and parents.

“It’s quality government data and it has everything from tuition prices to the current student loan debt clock, so it has a lot of really good qualitative data in there,” Rhodes said.

Links to Resources and Stories from This Episode:

Education Data Initiative

U.S. News and World Report

Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project

Debt Collective

National Student Loan Data Services

NBC15 - Feds: Thousands may have student debt that should be erased

WAFB9 - THE INVESTIGATORS: Experts warn of student loan forgiveness scam

NBC12 - Millions of Americans in their 60s are paying off college debt

Cornell Chronicle - For-profit colleges increase students’ debt, default risk

Study from Cornell Chronicle - Student debt and default: The role of for-profit colleges

WRDW - I-TEAM: Choosing between impact of student debt or getting a degree

New York Times - Lawsuit Charges For-Profit University Preyed on Black and Female Students

Yahoo Finance - Student loans: For-profit colleges leave students with more debt than public peers

The Hechinger Report - ‘They just saw me as a dollar sign’: How some certificate schools profit from vulnerable students

Post is a media review program from InvestigateTV, Gray Television’s streaming channel dedicated to in-depth and watchdog reporting. Post is presented in partnership with the journalism organization Investigative Reporters and Editors. The monthly program is taped at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a partner of InvestigateTV.

Episode written and produced by: Justine Arens and Jamie Grey, InvestigateTV

Production by: Director Travis McMillen, RJI and production assistant Reece McMillen

Video Editing by: Jon Turnipseed, InvestigateTV

Graphics and Animations by: Owen Hornstein, InvestigateTV

Jamie Grey

Jamie Grey

Jamie is InvestigateTV's managing editor. She coordinates content and produces stories with a particular passion for digging into government programs and waste, health care policy and education.