Beware! You Don’t Have to Pay for Help with Your Student Loans

debtrelief

There are countless ads online from companies offering to help you manage your student loan debt…for a fee, of course. But, did you know that you can get help with your student loans for free?

If you’re a federal student loan borrower, the U.S. Department of Education provides free assistance to help:

  • Lower Your Monthly Payment;
  • Consolidate Your Loans;
  • See If You Qualify For Loan Forgiveness; and
  • Get Out of Default

Lower Your Monthly Payment

Are you out of a job or not earning very much? The federal government makes it easy for you to switch to a more affordable repayment plan at any time at no cost.

Your loan servicer – the company that collects your payments, responds to your customer service inquiries, and does other tasks related to your federal student loan – can help you decide which repayment plan best suits you. Click here for a list of servicers’ contact information and to find out how to look up your servicer.

Before you contact your servicer, check out the Repayment Estimator to get an idea of plans that may be available to you and to see estimates for your monthly payments.

Consolidate Your Loans

If you have multiple loans that you want to combine, you can apply for loan consolidation through StudentLoans.gov. The application is free, and there are no extra processing fees.

Some people find it simpler to group all their student loans into a single loan with one interest rate and one monthly payment. If you choose to consolidate your federal student loans with the U.S. Department of Education, you, too, may be able to take advantage of flexible repayment plans, including ones that base your payments on your income and family size.

See If You Qualify For Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness is the process by which a borrower is released from their obligation to repay all or a portion of the principal and interest on a student loan. This also is known as discharge or cancellation. Loan forgiveness programs were created to encourage people to take certain types of jobs, to help borrowers with lower income jobs, and to compensate for permanent disabilities.

Many student loan companies advertise that they can help you get your loans forgiven. And sometimes, they simply are using the Department of Education’s free resources to help you, but are charging you to do so.

In fact, your loan servicer can help you determine if you qualify for loan forgiveness … for free.

Get Out of Default

If your loan is already in default, the debt relief companies know it and may target you with online and mobile ads, phone calls, and maybe even letters to your home address. By being in default, you’ve already incurred added interest, and you’re subject to collection fees. There’s no reason to add additional fees by signing up with a debt relief company.

Even if your loan is in default, loan consolidation is free and so is getting on a loan rehabilitation plan. Find out how to get out of default.

Protecting Your Log-In and Account Information

When student loan debt relief companies offer to manage your loan account, to do so, they will ask you to provide them with your federal student aid log-in information, or sign a Power of Attorney. Think about it: your log-in information is the equivalent of your signature on documents related to your student loan. If you share this information or sign a Power of Attorney, you are giving that person the power, literally, to take actions on your student loan on your behalf.

And if the debt relief company collects fees from you, but never actually makes any payments on your loan for you, you still will be responsible for those outstanding payments and late fees. You should protect your federal student aid log-in and account information as securely as you guard your ATM PIN.

Do You Think You’ve Been Scammed or Need a Resolution?

If you’ve already signed a contract with a debt relief company, and you think they have cheated you, call the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at 1-855-411-2372, or submit a complaint online. Under “What type of service is your complaint about?” select Debt Settlement. Then, choose I have a problem with a company that I hired to help reduce or settle my debt.

Also, many state governments have an Office of Consumer Affairs or Consumer Protection either within or affiliated with the office of the state’s Attorney General.

If you’ve tried to work out your student loan debt issues with your servicer without success, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group, which helps resolve disputes related to Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, Guaranteed Student Loans, and Perkins Loans.

Remember, there are no student loan companies affiliated with the Department of Education that charge fees to help you manage your loan repayment. With the resources available to you through the Department of Education, you can successfully manage your loan repayment for free.

April Jordan is a senior communications specialist at Federal Student Aid.

15 Comments

  1. I got a student loan for Medical Coding and Billing,which I attended about 2 1/2 months. I am now stuck with this loan repayment. I had to stop going to said school cause my mom was sick, her only brother which ended up dying. Moved out of state but my husband makes good money even though we are in debt. I am a Double Transplant Patient and On the list for a Third. I don’t need this stress. Can you help??

    Thanks!

  2. I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DISPUTE WITH THESE PEOPLE FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS NOW NO LUCK THEY HAVE NOW TOOK MY TAXES I DIDNT ATTEND THE DENTAL SCHOOL MORE THAN 3 MONTH AND THE SCHOOL CONTINUED TO COLLECT MONEY AND NOW THEY SAY I OWE THEM LIKE 9000 BUCKS CAN SOMEONE HELP ME OUT

  3. I was happy to find this site and help my daughter pay off her 2 student Federal loans under the Income Based program and to know this process has NO fee for info . & consolidating her 2 loans . I hope it works ! She is working outside her field now just to make ends meet . Any information you can e-mail me will truly help . Thank You .

  4. I have been trying for months and before that years to get this resolved. I am a low income, food stamp reciepient, cancer patient at Mayo in Mn. I was disabled on 4/16/2010, and have been getting ssdi since that date. I have spent so many hours on the phone trying to get the correct answer, that I cannot count them. I have also left many comments, emails and questions with various depts and the omnibudsmen, all go unanswered. My debt is 2700.00 with my student loans and they are currently taking from my ssdi. I am poor, I am sick(cancer twice in less than 5 years) I am disabled because of the damage caused by my cancer treatment, and all I want to know is what do i fill out to get you to stop taking what little money I have to live on after I pay my basic living expenses????? Please help!! I do not want to resort to stealing food and toilet paper just to get by, but after paying for my meds and my share of dr. bills, there is none left and still you take what little bit there is. Please can someone help me with the merry go round roller coaster ride this has become and help me fill out and return what is needed

    Thank You
    Toni M. Carlson
    651-829-7770

    • Hi Toni my name is Monique and I can tell u what I did to get my school loans discharged and I had a lot of them after I became disabled. I will try to call u later on today because it is 3:30 am here in Baltimore okay.

    • Hi Toni! I’m Miguel, I suffered a T2 Spinalcord Injury which left me paralyzed from mid chest down, I receive benefits from Social Security as well so I was seriously outraged when I read about what was being done to you! Although, the reason why you may have never received a response from the “omnibudsman” is because it’s incorrectly spelled & actually could explain why you never received a response from the “Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group” which is the correct spelling. I’m quite sure that if you take a moment to look them up online & leave a comment then this time around you’ll be sure to receive a prompt reply as well as all of the assistance you’re desperately in need of in order to resolve your case & finally put an end to all of this outrageousness!

  5. A good look into the abuses by the private student loan counseling companies needs to be made. Oftentimes student loan borrowers need good sound financial advice and debt analysis to ensure that they avail themselves to the Federal Programs at the same time they address the Private student loan and other debt issues.

    D.J. Rausa
    Attorney at Law

    San Diego, CA

  6. I am very glad that these resources are available to the student loan borrowers. Sometime, however, good sound legal advice of the total debt picture is needed. The “for profit” student loan counseling companies need to be shut down.

    D.J. Rausa
    Attorney at Law

  7. I am so sick and tired of the Dept of Education intercepting my check almost every year.I don’t see why you keep doing it! I owed you 9,000 bucks in like 94. Since then you have collected more than 9000 dollars over the more than 20 years this debt has been with me. You took $100 for almost 5 years when I was paying you voluntarily. Then you started taking $300 for about 3 years and that still isn’t enough for you people? All I want is for this to go away. I think I have paid you enough of my money and this is just a showing of greed at this point. I had in mind to use that money to get a car because I’ve had the same car (a 91 Nissan Sentra since 1993) It’s on it’s last legs and I could have used that money to pay toward a used car for about 2,200 bucks (nothing extravagant). Just something more reliable than the piece of crap I have now… but you people just continue to take and take and take from me.

    I doubt anyone is even going to listen to this email but if they do please I need to be done with this debt. I want to be free from you people.. You all just make me regret even trying to get a education.

  8. My son applied for Fafsa and once in the school they told him that he did not pass an entrance exam . He retook the test and was told that he did not pass again. And that he could not continue in the program . He had to come back home after only a month of being in the school. Does this qualify for loan forgiveness. Believe me I am paying for the loan I took out for cost of living. I had to continue to pay the rent even though he left until I got another roommate to replace him

    • Talk to the school’s financial aid office. It’s important to find out whether you can get a refund from the school if your son drops out before he gets a degree or certificate. Every school that uses federal student aid must give you a copy of its refund policy if you request it. If you received financial aid and you withdraw, some or all of the financial aid might have to be returned (by you or the school) to the source of the aid. Be sure to let the school know exactly when you plan to withdraw—doing so might reduce your debt.

  9. I really need advise on private student loans, I need to consolidate my payments or lower the payment but can’t get any help. Please advise, I do realize this site is for federal student loans but I really need some help and my lenders do not care to assist me.

  10. I tried one of those companies. I did get my money back because they could nothing for me. My husband have a spousal consolidation loan (you don’t do them any more). Our lender can do nothing to help us. We are paying 600.00 per month and we have no other debt, but, my husband doesn’t work and we have about 250.00 per month in medical bills due to his health (we have health insurance, but a 3500 deductable, I am still paying off a surgery from 2 years ago). I can pay 400.00 and be okay, how can you make that mappen.

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