Department of Education

Key Aspects of the Federal Direct Loan Program's Cost Estimates Gao ID: GAO-01-197 January 12, 2001

The Department of Education runs two major federal student loan programs, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP) and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). Under FDLP, students or their parents borrow money directly from the federal government through the schools the students attend. Under FFELP, money is borrowed from private lenders, and the federal government guarantees repayment if the borrowers default. GAO investigated concerns about Education's reliance on estimates to project FDLP costs and a lack of historical information on which to base those estimates. GAO found that developing a reasonable estimate of subsidy cost for loan programs is complex. Many assumptions must be taken into account and projections must be made for the life of the loans. Because FDLP's subsidy costs are determined largely by interest rates and interest rate fluctuations cannot be predicted with any certainty, it is unclear whether the current trend in negative subsidy costs for FDLP will continue. In addition, other factors, such as origination fees paid by borrowers, defaults, subsequent collections on defaulted loans and timing of loan repayments, affect the subsidy cost of FDLP. Although Education is able to estimate origination fees close to the actual amounts in the financial system, other key cash flows varied significantly. Also, Education's current model for estimating FDLP subsidy costs does not directly take into account key factors, such as prepayments and consolidations.


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