When students default on their federal loans, debt collectors are hired out just like any other to track them down and wrangle some kind of payment.
Problem is they may be asking borrowers for more than they should have to pay under federal law, Bloomberg’s John Hechinger reports:
“With $67 billion of student loans in default, the Education Department is turning to an army of private debt-collection companies to put the squeeze on borrowers. Working on commissions that totaled about $1 billion last year, these government contractors face growing complaints that they are violating federal laws by insisting on stiff payments, even when borrowers’ incomes make them eligible for leniency.”
The fact that students are letting their loans fall into collection at all is what’s truly troubling here.
Collectors will do whatever it takes to weasel as much out of your pocket as they can (they’ve got their commission in mind), but don’t give in.
The best thing federal-backed student loans have going for them is the host of repayment options available to borrowers after they’ve graduated. The key is being proactive enough to take advantage of them.
“Only borrowers who are already in default will be contacted by a collection agency,” FinAid.org’s Mark Kantrowitz told Your Money. “(Students) should ask about the process for rehabilitating their loans. Once the loans are rehabilitated, they should be able to obtain income-based repayment (IBR).”
10 per cent of borrowers are eligible for IBR but a fraction of that actually take advantage of it. The beauty of IBR is that it caps your monthly loan payment at 15% of your income and forgives any remaining balance after 25 years in repayment.
Check out the CFPB’s IBR calculator to see if you qualify.