May 9, 2018 / 7:45 PM / a year ago

U.S. consumer watchdog sidelines student loan office -memo

WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) - A top U.S. consumer finance watchdog will eliminate its office meant to field student loan complaints and fold it into a broader financial education office, according to an email to agency staff on Wednesday seen by Reuters.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) office of Students & Young Consumers has worked to educate young borrowers and respond to complaints involving exploitative student loans and other products.

The memo from Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of the CFPB since November and U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget chief, also laid out several other changes to the agency’s structure. The office of Financial Empowerment will be renamed the office of Community Affairs, for one.

Mulvaney said he will also pick a political appointee to monitor the work of the agency’s top lawyer, the memo said.

U.S. consumers are squeezed by a record $1.38 trillion in student debt, a total that has grown by about 40 percent in the last five years, according to data from the New York Federal Reserve.

In recent months, Mulvaney has dropped cases against certain payday lenders and asked financial services companies what changes they would most like to see in the CFPB.

Mulvaney has also said he may shut the agency’s open database for complaints that has served as a public forum for consumers. (Reporting By Patrick Rucker; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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