After throwing your mortar board in the air at graduation, the last thing you want to think about is your student loan servicer. The company that takes hundreds of dollars from your bank account each month doesn’t exactly elicit warm, fuzzy feelings.
However, your federal loan servicer is seriously important. You’ll work with them for 10 years or more as you make payments on your loan. Plus, they’re who you go to with questions or to apply for alternative payment plans.
If you took out federal loans, you could end up with FedLoan Servicing as your servicer. If you manage your student loans through the company, here’s how to use its MyFedLoan online platform, take full advantage of the site’s features, and handle issues with the company.
MyFedLoan student loans
FedLoan Servicing is a nonprofit organization run by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). PHEAA’s name can be misleading because FedLoan Servicing handles loans nationally.
Under the current structure, there are nine federal loan servicers. You don’t get to choose one from the list or switch servicers. Instead, the government appoints one to you when you take out student loans.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) selected MyFedLoan to service federal student loans within the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. That means that you might end up with FedLoan Servicing if you have one or more of the following student loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: For undergraduate and graduate students with financial need
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: For undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of financial need
- Direct PLUS Loans: For graduate students or parents of students
- Direct Consolidation Loans: For those who consolidated their federal loans
Using the FedLoan Servicing platform to manage your loans
If FedLoan Servicing is your loan servicer, using the MyFedLoan online platform is the easiest way to make payments, track your loan repayment progress, get information about forgiveness options, and download the forms needed for the student loan interest tax deduction.
If you like to use your phone to handle your finances, FedLoan Servicing also offers an app for both Android and iOS phones.
To get started with either the full website or the app, you first need to create an account. To do so, click on “sign in” at the top right, then choose “Create account now.”
The platform will prompt you to enter your name, email address, date of birth, and Social Security number or account number. Then, it will ask you to create a username and password and to set up identity verification questions.
Once you have an account and sign in, you can use the platform to view your loan balance, payment due dates, and interest rates.
Beyond information about your loans, the MyFedLoan portal also has other useful tools. The site has a section dedicated to student loan basics, such as an overview of your repayment options, what to do if you fall behind on your payments, and special programs for teachers or military service members.
MyFedLoan repayment options
You can make student loan payments in the following ways:
- Direct debit: You can link a checking or savings account to your FedLoan Servicing account. The company will automatically withdraw your payment on the same day each month. As an added benefit, signing up for automatic payments can reduce your interest rate by 0.25 percent.
- App: Use the app to send your payments or make extra payments on your loans.
- Website: You can manually make one-time payments through the site.
- Phone: FedLoan Servicing has an automated phone line you can call at any time to make payments. Dial 1-800-699-2908 and have your loan account number and bank account routing number ready.
- Mail: If you prefer, you can mail a check or money order to the company. However, the FedLoan Servicing address for payments is different than the address you use for other tasks, such as submitting forms. Mail your payments to: U.S. Department of Education, FedLoan Servicing, P.O. Box 530210, Atlanta, GA 30353-0210.
If you’re struggling to afford your payments, FedLoan Servicing might be able to help you with the following repayment options:
1. Alternative FedLoan payment plans
If you can’t afford to pay the full amount due but can pay a portion of it, contact the company to apply for an income-driven repayment plan (IDR).
Under an IDR plan, the DOE caps your payments at a percentage of your discretionary income and extends your repayment term. Depending on your finances, your monthly payment could be much lower than it is today. You will pay more in interest over time, but an IDR plan can be helpful if you need relief right now.
FedLoan Servicing provides information on the IDR plans available. It even has a repayment calculator so you can get an estimate of your monthly payment under each plan. That way, you can make an educated decision.
If you can’t afford to make any payment toward your loan, you might qualify for a loan deferment. With a deferment, you can postpone making payments for up to 36 months. If you have subsidized loans, the government will cover the accrued interest while the loan is in deferment.
Under the “Manage Repayment” section of your account, you can take a quiz to see if you fit the eligibility requirements before applying online for a deferment.
Forbearances are similar to deferments in that you can postpone payments. However, you can only pause payments for up to 12 months at a time with a forbearance. Unlike deferments, you are responsible for all interest that accrues, regardless of your loan type.
4. Student loan forgiveness
If you’re planning on pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), FedLoan Servicing is the only servicer that manages PSLF applications. In fact, if you have another servicer but are eligible for PSLF, the DOE will transfer your loans to FedLoan Servicing.
Through the online MyFedLoan platform, you can download and complete the Employer Certification Form (EFC). The EFC is a form you periodically submit as you work toward PSLF. The servicer reviews the form to ensure you’re eligible for PSLF.
In some cases, you might be able to qualify for a discharge of your student loans. For example, if you’re permanently disabled and unable to work, you might be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge.
You can find out about all the possible discharge options and how to apply on the loan forgiveness and discharge section of the MyFedLoan portal.
When it comes to federal loan servicers, one common complaint is that you can’t switch servicers if you’re unhappy with the one the DOE assigned to you. That issue is a real problem for some FedLoan Servicing customers.
The company is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but there are many reviews on the BBB site. Most of them are complaints — in fact, 97 percent of the BBB comments are negative. Many of the complaints are about how payments are processed and allege that PSLF applications are delayed or ignored.
The complaints are so numerous that FedLoan Servicing is now facing a lawsuit. According to The New York Times, the attorney general of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against FedLoan Servicing’s parent company, PHEAA. The suit accuses the company of making errors while managing PSLF and raising borrowers’ repayment costs.
In a statement to The New York Times, a PHEAA representative said that the company does not agree with the allegations.
The lawsuit is ongoing, and it might be years before there is a resolution. In the meantime, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to lodge a complaint if you experience problems.
What to do if you want a new servicer
Although you can’t switch federal loan servicers, there is another way to change servicers if you’re unhappy with the one you’ve been assigned.
To get a new servicer, you can refinance your student loans with a private company. Through refinancing, you take out a new loan from a bank or financial institution and use it to pay off your current student loans.
The new loan is managed by a separate company and might have a different repayment term, interest rate, and minimum payment. You could use refinancing to save money over time or to reduce your monthly payment.
However, it’s important to know that you will lose out on federal loan benefits if you refinance. You will no longer be eligible for federal perks like IDR plans or forgiveness programs. That’s why it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks of refinancing before applying.
Tackling your student loan debt
Managing your loans can be overwhelming, but understanding who your loan servicer is and what repayment options are available can help you through the process. The MyFedLoan platform has resources and information available that can empower you to handle your loans more effectively.
By being aware of some of the issues facing the company, you can monitor your account and take action if needed.
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