Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where ARE my Student Loans?

Before we see where those peaky loans have gone, let’s take a nostalgic look back: Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a student went to college and used Federal Financial Aid to help pay for their education. The student kept a copy of all of their loan paperwork, all of their loans were with one lender/servicer and, when their Repayment date arrived and the borrower was ready to make a payment, they had their payment coupon booklet in hand, with all of their payment coupons in place. The monthly payment amount was easy to locate, the mailing address was very clear – everything went smoothly. The borrower made regular monthly payments and received a Paid-in-Full statement after the 120th payment. Those were the days!

As many of you already know first-hand and many more of you will soon discover, the life of a student loan holder is not so simple anymore. The student loan industry has entered a brave new world! Over the past two years, many lenders have exited the student loan industry. Some will continue to service their FFELP loans until they are paid in full. However, many lenders choose to sell the FFELP loans and the next thing you know, you are getting letters and e-mail from lenders or servicers you never heard of. What’s a person to do?

It can become even more confusing for borrowers returning to school or who are still enrolled. If you are attending school and using federal student loan monies to fund your education, you have probably recently been contacted by your Financial Aid office asking you to stop in for an appointment. If you fall into this category, please make that appointment now! You will probably be asked to sign a new promissory note. This is necessary because, as of July 1, 2010, the U. S. Department of Education’s Direct Loans is the only source for federal student loans or consolidated federal student loans. For many borrowers, this will just add one more name to their ever growing list of loan servicers.

Now, more than ever, student loan borrowers must take control of their accounts and stay in contact with their lender/servicers. Do you know the answers to these 3 questions?

1. How many student loans do I have?
2. Who is servicing my student loan account(s)?
3. What is my approximate balance on my student loan account(s)?

You should know the answers to each question. Want to check your accuracy? Log onto http://www.nslds.ed.gov/ and see how you did. Were you correct? Any surprises? At this point, if you are still not completely comfortable with your student loan contact information, take a few moments to contact your lender or servicer and get everything straightened out. Even if you scored 100 on the 3 question quiz, follow these few simple guidelines to stay straight with your student loans. Notify your loan’s servicer if you:

· Change your mailing address
· Change E-mail address (Please note: if you no longer check an e-mail address, inactivate the account. If your lender/servicer has the address, they will send E-statements as opposed to “snail mail”. This will not help you if you never check or read mail in that mail box.)
· Change or disconnect your phone
· Change Employers or become unemployed (
Remember there is an Unemployment Deferment available for anyone who is not working or is working less than 30 hours per week)

One final piece of advice; be sure to keep your school in the loop too. Lenders do not notify the borrower’s school when loans are bought or sold, so make sure you keep your alma mater updated on the latest changes to your accounts. Your alma mater is also a great source for answers to the latest, confusing correspondence you've received. Your school’s Default Management office still speaks and can translate that foreign language called Financial Aid!

Coming Next Month: The Rates are Falling, The Rates Are Falling …… July 1st means the annual adjustment in variable rate student loans – and they are falling. Is it time to finally consolidate your student loans?

Other Coming Attractions:
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose … Names can be confusing.
You thought you paid that loan and now you are still getting late notices! What’s going on???

In-School Consolidation – What’s the Buzz? A look at the pros and cons of this 1 year window for in-school consolidation; it’s not for everyone.