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Student loans can be confusing and overwhelming, but the resources below offer legitimate student loan help.
Some of these services are free; others, such as credit counseling and legal advice, generally cost money. Personalized help may be worth paying if your situation is complex and looking for installment loan, the provider is reputable.
Legitimate student loan aid organizations will not call borrowers, text them, or email them with debt settlement solutions. Avoid “debt relief” companies that promise immediate student loan forgiveness. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Here are some approved student loan assistance resources to consider for information, advice, or both; these are established organizations with verified histories:
Many of these organizations offer free advice. In some cases, you may need to pay a fee, such as with a nonprofit credit counseling agency or if you hire a lawyer.
Here are some good practices for finding legitimate student loan help:
Start with your student loan manager
The federal government and many private lenders give each borrower a student loan manager. Your service agent should be your first point of contact for assistance with student loans. You can find your federal student loan manager by logging into your My federal student aid Account. For private loans, ask the original lender who to contact for billing or reimbursement requests.
Your repairer can help you:
Lower student loan payments through income-based reimbursement. These plans reduce payments to a percentage of your income; if you have no income, you will pay $ 0 per month. After 20 or 25 years of payments, you will receive a discount on the remaining balance. These plans can be requested for free at studentaid.gov.
Pay less temporarily, asking for a stay or abstention rather. You must be eligible for a stay – for example, being unemployed – but your agent can grant forbearance at their discretion.
While managers should be able to answer all of your questions, many borrowers complain about receiving inaccurate or incomplete information. Do your own research on the Federal Student Aid website and ask to speak to a call center supervisor if something is wrong.
Finding help for nonprofits
Afraid to contact your lender or afraid to check your loan balance? You can get a personalized action plan from a nonprofit credit counselor or a nonprofit organization that advises on student loans.
General credit counseling – to discuss simple budgeting techniques, for example – is often free. The fees for specific student loan counseling vary by agency, but you’ll likely pay $ 50 for an initial session that provides you with a personalized repayment plan. For $ 250, or sometimes more, a student loan advisor will offer you more intensive help while you execute the plan. Look for an advisor trained by a respected organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
You can also pay to work with a traditional financial planner. Look for one that is a Certified student loan professional to make sure they understand all the ins and outs of student loans.
Consider your legal options
Unpaid federal student loans default after nine months; the deadline is shorter for private loans. The default damages your credit and will stay on your credit report for seven years – and you will still owe the loan.
A bankruptcy lawyer can also help you determine if filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will resolve your student loan debt or change its repayment terms. While this is difficult to do, it is not impossible.
Avoid the crooks
When looking for student loan help, beware of debt relief companies who offer to consolidate your loans, sign up for an income-based repayment, or be forgiven – for a fee.
It’s not illegal for businesses to charge for services like consolidating or signing up for a payment plan – these are steps you can do yourself for free. And some may take your money without doing what they promised or charging you for additional services, like continuous credit analysis.
File a student loan complaint
If you are not satisfied with the service you received from your lender or manager, or if you believe you have been the victim of fraud, here are the steps you can take to to complain:
• Contact the lender’s or manager’s top customer service office, whether it is a consumer advocate, ombudsman, or complaints department.
• Contact your state’s attorney general’s office, consumer protection office, and congressional representative.
As a last resort, consider change lender or manager. You can refinance private and federal loans from a private lender. And federal borrowers can choose a new manager after consolidating with the government.