Tens of millions of Americans have student loan debt. Many of those borrowers have problems with their student loans, whether it involves difficulty paying their loans or an issue with their student loan servicers. The question for many borrowers is how exactly to get free student loan help.
The world of student loans is often complex, and finding answers to your questions can be confusing—especially if you are already overwhelmed by the stress of dealing with your debt.
Read on to learn more about what you can do if you need free help paying off your student loans.
I Have a Complaint About My Loan Servicer
If you have a complaint about the company that is servicing your student loan, then there are a variety of ways that you can address the issue. One of the simplest ways to do so is by filing a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, or CFPB. It takes just a few minutes to file a complaint via their website. This federal agency can investigate the complaint and take action against services who are engaging in unfair or illegal business practices.
You can also check to see if your lender has an ombudsman that you could contact to file a complaint about the servicer. Many states also have financial complaint boards or student loan ombudsmen. You can check with your state to see where you can file a complaint or request further assistance.
Lastly, you could consider student loan refinancing which would likely give you a new servicer. Just be sure to be aware of what you are giving up as your federal student loans will become private by refinancing.
My Payments Are Too High
There are a number of ways to lower your student loan payments.
The first step should be to contact your student loan servicer to discuss options. You may be able to extend your loan term length through a new repayment plan, whether that be an income-driven repayment plan, an extended repayment plan, or something else. Note that this will likely cause the total cost of your loan to increase.
Another option is to apply for forbearance or deferment of your student loans, which is the equivalent of putting your loans on pause during a period of hardship. While this is an option, it would likely cause the total cost of your loans to increase substantially. Private lenders may also offer forbearance.
Lastly, you can consider consolidating or refinancing your student loans. Federal direct consolidation is a process where you can combine multiple federal student loans into a single loan. Typically, a person can extend the loan repayment length during consolidation, which can lower monthly payments considerably.
If you have federal and/or private student loans, you can refinance those loans through a bank or lender. This involves applying for a new private loan that will replace your existing student loans. The interest rate on this refinanced loan is typically lower which can lower your monthly payments and save you thousands of dollars in interest payments. Just be sure to know what you are giving up by refinancing your federal student loans into private loans before moving forward.
I’ve Stopped Making Payments
If your student loans are currently past due, then you will need to act quickly to avoid damage to your credit score. Federal student loans go into default after a period of just 9 months; defaulting on private student loans typically occurs more quickly.
Going into default on your student loans will stay on your credit report for a period of seven years. For this reason, you will want to contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss options for making a new repayment plan.
For anyone who has been sued for debt collection, you can find low-cost or free help online for legal purposes. An attorney can also assist you with determining if filing for bankruptcy is in your best interest or if negotiating a debt settlement is a good option.
My Students Loans Aren’t Being Reported Correctly
In some cases, your student loan payments may not be reported properly on your credit report. In that situation, you can correct that error by sending a dispute letter to the credit bureau or credit reporting agency that listed the information. This letter should explain the error and why you are disputing it.
Include supporting documentation, such as payment receipts or cancelled checks, to prove that you did make your student loan payments. The three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—can be contacted via their websites.
You should also contact your lender and request that they contact the credit bureaus as well. Again, enclose the supporting documentation and explain why the information reported is erroneous.
Final Thoughts on Finding Student Loan Help
While it can be stressful, there are resources available to help with student loans—and most are free. With a little bit of effort, you can resolve your student loan problems and relieve this stress in your life.