Facing student loan problems can be akin to a recurring nightmare. If you find yourself haunted by inadequate guidance from your loan servicer, incorrect balances, or other account discrepancies, it’s time to take action. In 2022, a staggering 101,500 student loan complaints were lodged with the Federal Student Aid office, doubling the figures from the previous year. With the resumption of loan repayments, this number is set to rise even further. The good news is that a well-structured student loan complaint can not only help resolve your issues but also assist others facing similar predicaments. In this article, we’ll provide expert advice on how to file an effective complaint that garners results.
1. Determine the Right Time to Lodge a Complaint
Student loan complaints are invaluable for flagging system errors, such as payment discrepancies, balance inaccuracies, erroneous advice from your servicer, or unjust denials of loan discharges or consolidation applications. However, they might not be the solution for affordability issues. If you’re struggling to make payments, consider exploring options like income-driven repayment plans or the 12-month student loan on-ramp. If you have concerns about student loan policies, reaching out to your Congress members may be more appropriate.
2. Initiate Contact with Your Servicer
Before launching a formal complaint, it’s advisable to call your federal student loan servicer. According to Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, nearly 99.9% of the time, your servicer can rectify the issue when you bring it to their attention. While this isn’t a guaranteed fix, it’s a critical first step. Be prepared for long call wait times, and if the resolution isn’t prompt, don’t give up. Servicers are known to make mistakes, so if something doesn’t seem right, escalate the matter to a supervisor. Abby Shafroth, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s student loan borrower assistance project, underscores the importance of this approach.
3. Select the Appropriate Channel for Your Complaint
There are three primary avenues for submitting your student loan complaint: the Federal Student Aid office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and state ombudsman offices. These organizations often collaborate and share information, eliminating the need for multiple complaints.
Federal Student Aid Office
If you’re a federal student loan borrower, it’s best to file your complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office. They possess the greatest authority to directly address your issues. You can do this through the FSA’s online feedback center or by calling 800-433-3243. If your issue remains unresolved, you can escalate it to the FSA Ombudsman Group as a last resort.
For those with private student loans, file your complaint with the CFPB online or by calling 855-411-2372. The CFPB also oversees servicers managing federal student loans, which makes them an important channel. The FSA and state regulators can access the CFPB’s complaint database, ensuring your concerns are heard.
State Ombudsman Offices
If you reside in Washington, D.C., or one of the 15 states with its own student loan ombudsman office, consider submitting your complaint there for a quicker resolution. Borrowers who complain to D.C.’s Student Loan Ombudsman office typically receive a resolution within 30 days.
4. Craft Your Complaint
When drafting your complaint, it’s crucial to keep it brief and focused on the facts. Avoid letting emotions cloud your narrative, even though frustration and anxiety are understandable. According to Betsy Mayotte, a key tip for filing an effective complaint is to maintain emotional detachment. Provide pertinent details such as the dates of your calls and any instructions received. To expedite your resolution, attach copies of relevant documents, such as incorrect bills or loan discharge applications.
5. Manage Your Expectations
Be prepared for the possibility that your complaint response may experience delays. With over 28 million federal student loan borrowers expected to make payments in October, delays are almost inevitable. A backlog doesn’t necessarily imply a malfunctioning system. Regulators take complaints seriously, even if you don’t receive immediate feedback.
Beyond personal resolution, remember that your complaint may initiate an investigation that could benefit thousands of borrowers in similar situations. If neither your servicer nor a complaint can resolve your issue, don’t hesitate to contact your members of Congress. They can offer additional assistance in tackling your student loan problems.