One in eight Americans has a federal student loan, and complaints of mistreatment are legion. Unfortunately, a series of recent moves by the federal government could prolong borrowers’ misery.

The Obama administration has struggled to police student loan collectors at a time when student loan debt has skyrocketed. (The Federal Reserve pegs the total at about $1.4 trillion). The consequences of this debt load for the general public could be disastrous. More than 7 million people are in default. Almost 3 million more are at least one month behind on payments.

Borrowers who default can face a lifetime of ruined credit. High debt burdens could hamper household consumption and limit demand for new credit, stunting economic growth

When borrowers struggle, loan servicers are supposed to answer their phone calls and evaluate their eligibility for the government’s various income-based repayment plans. But loan servicers and debt collectors say borrowers dodge their calls.

Consumer advocates, state and federal regulators, and borrowers say these loan companies are to blame, due to ill-trained staff and companies’ general desire to minimize costs.

Three recent federal moves have affected the landscape.

On July 5, the Federal Communications Commission declared that government contractors, such as those employed by the Department of Education to collect on student loans, are exempt from a law that protects borrowers from phone harassment.

Second, the Education Department rewarded a longtime contractor that reckons it shouldn’t have to face lawsuits from aggrieved borrowers.

Finally, the Education Department quietly enabled debt collectors that the government had previously accused of misleading distressed borrowers at “unacceptably high rates” to escape law enforcement consequences and land lucrative federal contracts.