How to Get Help With Student Loan Problems
Undoubtedly, the most common student loan problem is owing more money than you can comfortably pay. If that’s what’s troubling you, read Avoiding Student Loan Default to learn how to make your debt more manageable.
Other student loan problems may be more administrative in nature, but some of them can be more than maddening -- they may wreak real havoc on your life. Such difficulties include:
- lost or improperly credited payments
- loans that are mistakenly placed in default
- loans that are sold to another servicer without your knowledge
- inaccurate information reported to credit bureaus
- incorrect information in your loan records, or
- collection agency harassment.
Take Steps to Resolve the Problem Yourself
For problems like these, the first thing to do is try to work things out with your loan servicer. Clearly identify what the issue is, gather any paperwork to support your claim -- such as proof of payments you’ve made -- and contact your loan servicer to find out what steps to take next. The U.S. Department of Education provides a list of things you can do to resolve disputes with loan servicers. They also offer a self-resolution checklist you can use to determine whether you’ve taken all the necessary steps to solve the problem yourself.
Get Help From an Ombudsman Program
If you’re unable to work directly with your loan servicer to fix the problem, there are ombudsman programs available to help you. An ombudsman program will provide a neutral representative to help you work out the problem through an informal, confidential process
For federal student loans, contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group. You can fill out a simple form online to get the ball rolling. Prepare yourself to be persistent when working with the federal government to resolve a complaint about how your loans are handled. There is good evidence that Federal Student Aid hasn't done enough to help with legitimate complaints.
For private student loans, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You’ll begin by submitting a complaint online; then CFPB will work with you to resolve the dispute.
You may also want to find out whether your lender or guaranty agency has its own ombudsman office --many do. You can find a list of guaranty agency and lender ombudsman programs on the Student Loan Borrower Assistance (SLBA) website.
Find a Lawyer
It's rarely necessary to hire a lawyer to handle student loan problems, but in an extreme situation -- for example, if you're being sued for student loan default or want to try discharging your student loans in bankruptcy (unlikely but not always impossible) -- a good lawyer may be what you need. For help, see How to Find a Student Loan Lawyer in California.