Student loans can be overwhelming and confusing. The government has a website to help (studentaid.gov) but it isn’t user friendly. Your servicer is also unlikely to help because they often provide poor information while following a script that is simply designed to collect your money and doesn’t have you, the borrower’s best interests at heart. Finding relief from your student loan debts can be difficult.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are ways to lower your government student loan payments and possibly get rid of your debt altogether.
Sorting through student loan issues can be complex. Navigating through the process is often frustrating for the borrower and as a result, the borrower may put off dealing with their loan(s) at all. This often results in defaulting on your student loan(s) entirely. There can be negative impacts to your credit status, loans being turned over to collection agencies with high collections costs, harassing phone calls and/or threatening collection letters, wage garnishment, your tax refund being intercepted, and many others.
Seeking the advice of an experienced student loan law attorney can be a beneficial option. A student loan lawyer can review all of your loans and provide you with information for the many options you may have and not even know about.
It is important to avoid “debt relief” companies that promise immediate student loan forgiveness. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Similar to student loan servicers, they too, do not have your best interest in mind.
There are many options for getting help with your student loans and in some cases, you could get them removed entirely or reduced:
1. Call your student loan servicer
The federal government and many private lenders assign each borrower a student loan servicer. These agencies are your first point of contact for student loan help. You can locate your federal student loan servicer by logging into your My Federal Student Aid account. (For private loans, ask the original lender whom to contact for billing or repayment inquiries.)
Your servicer should be able help you understand options and the student loan programs available to you, like loan forgiveness programs. They should be able to answer your questions. However, 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 doesn’t sound right.
If you still need help, contact us for an analysis of your Federal and private Student Loans and the options available to you.
2. See if you qualify for loan forgiveness
Your federal student loans can be discharged, forgiven or canceled in a few scenarios. For example, you may qualify for a discharge if:
Your school defrauded you.
Your school closed while you were enrolled (or soon thereafter).
You are unable to work due to a total and permanent disability.
You can also receive federal student loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years if you sign up for income-driven repayment, or 10 years if you work for the government or a qualifying nonprofit. Consulting with a student loan attorney can provide you with benefits such as ensuring you are making the lowest eligible payments, that the program(s) you are enrolled in are benefiting you the best, and to explore what other programs you may qualify for. We can also help you determine if you might qualify to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
3. Consider your legal options
Most unpaid federal student loans go into default after nine months; the timeline is shorter for Federal Perkin Loans and private loans. Default damages your credit and will stay on your credit report for seven years, and you’ll still owe the loan. Meanwhile, you will have to field the unpleasant calls from servicers or their collection agencies.
The government provides clear paths to recovery in the event of student loan default, and your servicer can help you determine the best one for you. However, an experienced student loan attorney can properly advise you on the best options while looking at your entire financial picture.
Private loan default can get especially messy. If you’re sued by a private lender to collect the debt, get help right away. There are strict timelines to consider and you likely have 30 days or less to respond in writing to the court with your answer to the lawsuit. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, the loan company will get an order by the court granting whatever they have asked for without your participation.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can also help you determine whether filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will dissolve your student loan debt or change its repayment terms. While this is difficult to do, it’s not impossible.
4. Sign up for income-driven repayment
Federal student loan borrowers can choose from multiple repayment options.
If you have federal loans and will need a lower bill for the foreseeable future, your best bet is income-driven repayment. These plans cut payments to a percentage of your income; if you have no income, you’ll pay $0 per month. After 20 or 25 years of payments, you’ll receive forgiveness on the remaining balance. These plans are free to apply for on studentaid.gov or an experienced student loan attorney can assist you with the process.
If you have no income, you’ll pay $0 per month.
If you only need to pay less temporarily, you can request a deferment or forbearance instead. You must qualify for a deferment — for example, by being unemployed — but your servicer can grant forbearance at its discretion.
Private loans usually offer forbearance but have few other repayment alternatives. Still, stay in close contact with your lender or servicer and ask how you can reduce payments, perhaps through an interest rate discount or interest-only payments for a period of time.
5. Consolidate or refinance your loans
Federal student loan consolidation combines your existing federal loans into a single loan with a weighted interest rate. Consolidation won’t lower your interest rate, but it can lower your payments by extending your repayment term, though you’ll repay more overall as a result.
There can be good reasons to consolidate in order to qualify for income based repayment plans that would otherwise be unavailable.
Don’t fall for the misconception that there is nothing you can do about your student loans. You do have options – you are in control!
If you are having difficulty paying a federal or private student loan, we can evaluate your specific circumstances and help you take action in your journey to resolve your student loan debt issues. We are committed to helping you find the best solution for your student loan situation by providing you with legal guidance which can assist you in finding the best options available to you/your specific circumstances.
Contact us today and let us help you navigate through the process
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