Oct 20, 2015
It can take forever to get your student loans enrolled in a student debt repayment plan
Truth be told, I’ve been seriously considering shutting this blog down. There is a lot going on in my life, and I’ve been struggling to really build this blog into the student loan repayment community resource I’d envisioned for some time now. But then something happened yesterday that provoked a change of heart.
I logged onto my student loan servicer and found out that my student loans are in repayment. Not one loan. Or two loans. But all 7 of the federal student loans held with my student loan servicer have entered into repayment.
Now, is repayment is part of the natural course of events after I’ve borrowed federal money to pay for my education? Yes. Do I have a legal and ethical responsibility to do all that I can to repay my student loans? Most definitely. Do I take that responsibility seriously? Yes.
But what about my student loan servicer? Don’t they have a responsibility to process income-based repayment paperwork I sent over a month ago in a timely fashion?
Laziness isn’t the real reason many people struggle with student debt repayment
Here’s the thing. I didn’t just send the paperwork off into the great beyond and expect it to be magically processed.
I called before submitting the paperwork, because the deferment I was using was coming to a close, and I wanted to shift approaches by trying an income-based strategy instead. So I did my research. I picked up the phone and called, asked lots of detailed questions, and did some of my own research into the differences between the various federal earnings-based repayment plans available to me.
After having a detailed conversation with a lovely woman, who if my memory is accurate, assured me that processing this paperwork would take a matter of days, I decided to set my student loans to come off of deferment in order to have them entered into income-based repayment.
This last little fact doesn’t seem like a big deal (having my student loans come off of deferment and enter into repayment) but it is. Here’s why:
While my student loans were in deferment, the interest on them was growing, but it did not capitalize. Meaning, in other words, that the interest was not lumped back into my principal balance, and if I happened to come into a lump sum of cash I could devote it to paying my interest in the hopes of preventing my overall student loan debt obligations from skyrocketing once my loans transitioned from one repayment status to another. (In this case, from deferment into income-based repayment.)
I knew that suddenly landing on paydirt was not likely, but I was interested in doing all that I could to prevent my student loan interest from capitalizing unless I was enrolled in a repayment plan that would: (a) enable me to begin making reasonable progress towards shaving down my student loan debt (b) start the clock towards student loan forgiveness, and (c) allow me to maintain my sanity while repaying my student loans.
To that end, after many days passed (approximately two weeks) I logged onto my student loan servicer account, and lo and behold, my deferment was about to expire and I had not been enrolled in a repayment plan.
I picked up the phone and called my student loan servicer. Again. This time I was told that I could enter my student loans into a temporary forbearance while they got the paperwork processed. Apparently these applications are processed on the weekend (????), and I could anticipate that my paperwork would be processed that weekend. Riiight.
I asked lots and lots of questions, and had difficulty getting clear answers on this call. (I think it’s time we establish that that our opinions of our student loan servicer are pretty heavily influenced by the disposition of the people supposedly helping us on the other end of the line. When I talk with someone who explains things with the clarity of mud, my esteem of my student loan servicer tends to plummet.)
End backstory, enter escalating frustration, and return to the present.
Multiple weekends have passed since this last conversation with my student loan servicer. No less than six. I logged onto my account yesterday, and guess what I found? You guessed it (and I wrote it at the beginning of this piece). All 7 of my student loans have entered repayment. Not income-based repayment. Repayment. Meaning a standard 10-year repayment plan that requires very substantial monthly payments.
I woke up early this morning to find an email from my student loan servicer sitting in my inbox. The subject of the email is “Your Student Loan Payments are Due – Review Your Payment Schedule.” In this ever so friendly email (sent to me at 11:18 pm last night), the servicer says in bold, “Remember, you have options.”
Exercising my student debt repayment options
I am a firm believer in options. I know I have options. But, when I’ve communicated on multiple occasions the option that I’d like to exercise, have followed-up multiple times and have yet to have my request to be enrolled in a repayment plan be either respected or fulfilled, it’s pretty difficult to think that my student loan servicer cares very much about ensuring that I exercise my options.
Personally, I find being ignored pretty disempowering and de-motivating.
So here I am at 5:24 am on October 20, 2015, deciding to share about my experiences with getting my student loans enrolled in a repayment plan with you. I cannot possibly be the only person who is experiencing this frustration. So if you’re out there reading this I want you to know that you’re not alone. But I am not going to give up, and neither should you.
Here’s what we’re going to do. Instead of shutting down this blog, I’m going to attempt some vulnerability, avoid keeping my feelings and emotions about my student loan experience bottled up, and share my journey with you.
Are you in?
Start ruling your student debt!
May I deliver this thoughtful note to your inbox each week? Really? I'm so excited.