The primary role of student loan servicers is to ensure that borrowers repay the balance of their loan according to the terms of the agreement. They are involved in the process from the time the…
The primary role of student loan servicers is to ensure that borrowers repay the balance of their loan according to the terms of the agreement. They are involved in the process from the time the loan is taken out until the last payment is made.
Along the way, they provide monthly statements and keep a record of payments applied to the balance of the loan. If there are any changes, like switching to a more affordable repayment plan, they play an essential part in the process.
There are currently 10 different servicers contracted by the government to manage recovery of federal student loans. Private student loans may also be serviced by one of those companies or may be handled exclusively by others.
Here are some examples of times borrowers should proactively reach out to their servicer other than to check a balance.
Graduation. To get the best start toward repayment of your student loans, it helps to have a clear understanding of the repayment schedule. Knowing when payments should start, how much will be due and how often payments should be made are just some of the areas where it helps to get clarification from a servicer.
For federal Stafford loans, the grace period lasts six months from the date of graduation. At the end of that period, a regular schedule of recurring payments will begin. If you have any questions about the amount and your repayment options, it helps to have those conversations before the first installment is due.
Resolving disputes. It pays to examine your student loan account information frequently and act quickly when there are any questions about the accuracy of what is being reported.
Common borrower concerns are often related to the remaining balance or record of payments. Addressing these concerns with the servicer can help clarify legitimate reasons for what you are seeing on your statement, such as balance increases due to the method of interest accrual, or your communication could lead to a correction for an incorrectly applied payment.
Credit reporting errors should also be brought to the attention of a servicer while being disputed with the credit reporting agencies.
Minor life changes and short-term setbacks. Any time there is a change to your contact information, it is vital that you contact your servicer and share those details. Similarly, if you change banks or make other changes that affect your checking or savings account, it is important to communicate those if you are enrolled with an automatic payment plan.
It is also important to let the servicer know if you are experiencing any changes in employment that will require a temporary reprieve in your repayment schedule.
This could be in the form of a deferment or forbearance under the right circumstances, but it is always advised to consider the limitations of those choices and weigh them against the benefits of other possible solutions. Starting that conversation with a servicer is an important first step.
Major life events that affect loan repayment. A lot can happen in the life of a borrower while repaying student loans. Research has revealed that the average bachelor’s degree recipient takes 21 years to repay all of his or her student loans. There can be a long list of successes and setbacks throughout that time, and it helps to know how your repayment plan can adapt when necessary.
Before you select an affordable plan, it helps to do two things. First, reach out to a nonprofit student loan counseling agency that can offer objective guidance on the plans that may be best suited for your circumstances. After identifying the best course of action, let your servicer know your plan and the reasons why you are seeking a more affordable repayment option.
Loans may not always be serviced by the same company over the course of repayment, so it also helps to be watchful for notifications when the servicer is changing.
The Student Loan Ranger recommends contacting the National Student Loan Data System if there is any question about who is servicing a student loan. A recent copy of a credit report may also provide detail along the same lines.