Cover: Prebankruptcy Credit Counseling

Prebankruptcy Credit Counseling

Published Jul 23, 2007

by Noreen Clancy, Stephen J. Carroll

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The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 provided new requirements for bankruptcy filers and gave the U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) new areas of responsibility. One new requirement is that any individual filer must have received credit counseling during the 180 days before filing. USTP must develop measures of credit-counseling agency effectiveness, then apply those criteria to decide whether to reapprove those agencies. Complicating the effectiveness issue is the increased use of Internet-based credit counseling and whether the mode of delivery influences the counseling’s adequacy and effectiveness. USTP asked RAND for help in examining what constitutes effective prebankruptcy credit counseling and how to measure it. The authors concluded that USTP should first explicitly identify the goals of prebankruptcy credit counseling; that there are no common standards or accepted sets of metrics for USTP to adopt in whole; and that there are no accepted views on the various modes of delivery. They recommend that USTP use certain upcoming reports to inform the process of developing measures of effectiveness and approving or reapproving credit-counseling agencies; that it consider whether an agency up for reapproval is providing the services stated in its initial approval application, as well as any pre- and post-testing that the agency conducts; that it survey prebankruptcy credit counselors; that it choose a few measures of effectiveness; and that it take some debtor characteristics into account when measuring agency effectiveness.

This research was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice at the request of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees and was conducted within the auspices of the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment.

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