Millions of people will soon start repaying their federal student loans in October. If you’re trying to reach a loan servicer by phone, pour a big cup of your favorite beverage, because you’re probably going to be on hold a while. People aren’t able to get through easily by phone. When they do and then submit forms, it takes forever to get documents approved. It’s a hot mess.
Why? The repayment pause granted during the pandemic is ending. In a normal month, you might have a few million people calling their servicer to talk about repayment or changing their plan or whatever. Now, you’ve got like 40 million people who need help. And, Congress froze the Education Department’s budget for 2023, so servicers don’t even have the resources and staffing they need to help people. Congress essentially froze the Education Department’s funding for 2023.
What should you do?
- If you want to call, find your servicer. Go to studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers studentaid.gov.
- Call whenever their office opens. Pretend you’re ordering concert tickets or something. Many open at 8 a.m. Start dialing a few seconds before the office opens.
- If you can’t get through, find out who your servicer is and contact them online.
- Record your call, if it’s legal in your state. Put it on speaker phone and use another phone or a laptop or something to record both sides of the conversation.
- Never pay someone to help you with your student loan. Your loan servicer will help you for FREE. Contact your servicer to apply for income-driven repayment plans, student loan forgiveness, and more.
- Don’t just use a search engine to type in “student loan help” or the name of your servicer. There are lots of imposter websites out there.
- Don’t ignore your debt. It won’t go away. There are options, including repaying based on your income and applying for a deferment or forbearance to temporarily postpone your payments. You can use the government’s “loan simulator” to see your options. You should contact your student loan servicer if you’re having difficulty making payments.
Watch out for scams. The con-artists know this is a thing right now. They’re already sending scam emails and making scam robocalls. Do not give personal info or pay anyone you weren’t expecting to hear from. If you get a call and you’re not sure about it, hang up and call back at a number you verify independently
- If you’re talking with someone, be nice! They didn’t cause your problem, but they should be able to help you fix it.
Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.