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Our student loan complaint system is open for business

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Since we opened our doors, student loan borrowers have told us about some of the frustrations they sometimes face with their lenders, servicers, and debt collectors. Borrowing for college should be the best investment you’ll make, but for many Americans, paying off those student loans is a real challenge.

For several years, federal student loan borrowers have had the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Ombudsman to help bring their concerns to financial institutions. But for millions of students and their families, federal student loans don’t cover the full cost of college and they need private student loans to make ends meet.

However, private student loans – which don’t always carry the same consumer protections as federal student loans – have been overseen by a patchwork of government agencies. In the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress established an Ombudsman for private student loans within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to assist borrowers with private student loan complaints. This means a single federal agency is now responsible for watching out for all students and families who choose to borrow private student loans.

Today, we are open for business and ready to hear from you. To ask a question, file a complaint, or share your story: go to www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call our toll-free number at 1-855-411-CFPB.

If you file a complaint, we’ll work with your lender or servicer to get a response. While we certainly can’t make your debt disappear, we can help bring your concern to your financial institution’s attention. If you don’t have a specific complaint or question, but want to tell us what is – or is not – working in the student loan market, we invite you to tell your story.

And while the Consumer Bureau has only been open for a short time, we’ve been hard at work to gather the facts and provide tools to help you make good decisions about student loans. We launched an online tool, the Student Debt Repayment Assistant, to help you navigate the maze of student loan repayment options. We also launched Know Before You Owe: student loans and worked with the Department of Education to develop a draft “financial aid shopping sheet” for schools to improve the student loan information they give to students.

Our team at the Bureau will keep working to give you the tools and the information to make sound financial decisions on student debt – and to figure out your options in case things don’t go according to plan. These days, we all seem to know someone having a tough time with their student loans, so share this new resource by e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook (just use one of the buttons below). With your participation, we can help make the student loan market work better for all of us.

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman.

  • Gitanobravowwf

    I do not think it’s fair that our governement gave a PRIVATE Lender of student loans that are not FEDERALLY BACKED take away bankruptcy protection when they are unsecured loans just like any other type of unsecured debt! Sallie Mae does not offer IBR repayment but has all the protection Federally back loans have and that has caused serious rise in Defaults and monthly payments. They are predatory lenders and though I advocate for bankruptcy protection to be returned to ALL STUDENT LOANS at least they should be retured to private ones

  • http://twitter.com/LoanReformNow Grads For Reform

    Thank you for allowing us to voice our concerns regarding this important issue. These predatory lenders are proving to be so detrimental to our financial futures and are actively destroying the American dream. I hope many struggling borrowers can find relief because of your new system. Thank you. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1221637808 Charlie Kent

    This is a great forum to help straighten out the confusing  jargon, rules, and regulations of Student Loans.  I hope this forum will help alleviate a lot of the stress we deal with on a daily basis!!!  This is a GREAT IDEA!!! 

  • Dparfitt

    As families, with kids who we have co-signed for private and Federal Loans, we seriously need help!  Especially with private loans!  With the interest rates we seem to never be able to get ahead of the debt!  And they are going to go up again this Jully!   If we don’t help our kids their future looks bleak, but we can only be able to do this for so long.  I am 70 and my wife is almost 60.  They may never be able to afford a house and may have difficulty being able to start a family.  The college degrees they have, have not led to jobs that will even begin to help them pay back their loans!   Unfortunately, access to bankruptcy proceedings may be their only hope!?

  • mid Brow

    This is sad, having loans through Sallie Mae should mean they are public loans. I have loans with American Education Services, I’m frustrated with the lack of help available for public loans. I have contacted Department of Education, received generic form replies, and passing the buck to Congress about interest rates and oversight of predator lending companies. I feel all the student loans, parent plus loans, both public and private, should be geared back to 0% and see how fast the system changes to help the borrower achieve their higher education dreams instead of being burdened with life-time debt for a worthless piece of paper.

  • Nettlekl191

    I don’t understand how we can bail banks out and lend money at 0%. but my loans are 6.8%? Its insane and the economy is going to tank because of it.
     

  • Jennifer Rash

    I found a book at the library one time called “A pictorial history of the Mafia”. While reading it – simply for the sake of curiosity – I found that the description of loan sharks fits Sallie Mae like a second skin. The only difference is, when the loans default, Sallie Mae doesn’t go around shooting the people that took out the loans, they simply murder them financially for generations to come.
    Yes, I’m one such victim of Sallie Mae’s loan sharking. Even worse is the school I chose wasn’t worth the loans. I couldn’t find any potential employer that would accept the degree I was trying to earn and the credits are non-transferable. Tell me, how was I expected to pay back loans with a degree that isn’t recognized anywhere or transfer credits for a higher degree elsewhere to earn more?
    Is it just me, or does it seem like the Mafia’s made their once illegal activities legal and moved into Washington?

  • Jacqueline Brown

    I honestly don’t know HOW these people SLEEP at night! 

  • Joanmarie

    I am grateful President Obama made the recess appointment to get this long overdue, consumer friendly web site up and running.   I most certainly hope that this site becomes a true consumer venue, to never allow the past atrocities of this predatory lending system to manifest itself to the degree it has, again. I urge  the new Director, and all those involved to please work diligently for the consumers and help them rectify some of the injustices of misinformation,  disinformation,  misguidance, avoidance,  imparted upon them by legislators, lenders, and the Dept. of Education. I certainly hope, as a retired college Prof, aware of the malfeasance of the educational bureaucracy, lending and legislative bureaucracy of the past 25 years,  this is the beginning of a new era of genuine openness, justice and fairness for American Consumers, and not another band aid, that does not find solutions and prevent injustices to continue. Thank you, and I wish much success to this new Consumer advocacy group.

  • Drtlcdc

    I have a problem with spousal consolidated student loans. Prior to July 06, this was acceptable, and for husband and wife a great idea. Downfall, what about divorce or death. No one goes into a marriage with those thoughts, but now you need to. I am locked into dealing my loan debt with my ex husband for 72 months now, and we were only married 14months!!! we cant split them up not even 50/50. So if he or I dont follow protocol, then we are in jeopardy of loosing everything , including the license to practice. Combined we are at $405,000.oo !! HElp

  • Anonymous

    I am also very happy to see this new government initiative. I hope it is a sign that the student loan industry will finally be held accountable for stacking the deck against student debtors. I would like to offer the following suggestions:

    1. Please find a way to help people who are already in repayment. The enhancements to the IBR plan that Obama signed into law late last year don’t apply to me or to many other student loan debtors. If there is going to any kind of loan forgiveness, make sure that it gives people credit for what they have already paid. In other words, if people are going to have their loan debt forgiven after 20 years repayment, don’t start the clock from 2012 forward. This leaves middle-aged debtors like me in the same bind we were in.

    2. Require that Sallie Mae and other lenders provide detailed information to their debtors (they currently do not do so). Require them also to treat people with respect and at the very least follow the same lending and debt collecting laws that apply to banks and collection agencies.

    3. Create incentives for lenders to help debtors avoid going into default. I understand from what I have read (and I’ve done a lot of research on this subject) that there is actually a perverse incentive in place now, meaning that Sallie Mae makes more if their customers default than if they pay on time. Something seriously needs to change if that is the case.

    4. Set fair limits on interest rates.

    5. Reinstate bankruptcy protections.

  • LostinDebt

    I got a student loan for grad school, starting in 1992, with a 9% interest rate. At the time I had no money and didn’t think I would be able to go to grad school and Columbia University gave me an astonishing amount of money. Money was so abstract to me at the time that I figured if you were in debt it didn’t matter if it was $10,000 or $60,000. After I completed my program and the loans started coming due, I got a day job to start paying them. As long as I had money I was making payments; for a few years I was paying faster, trying to get the balance down. Then my income started to dry up. Now I owe $67,000 on the original $52,000 loan and have no way to pay it off. There seem to be very few options. The monthly interest alone is $450 – so even with an income adjusted payment plan – they quoted $54 / month based on 2010 tax return – I will NEVER be able to make a dent in this loan. Surely, given all the help home owners have gotten – and how irresponsible it is to saddle someone getting an Master of Fine Arts degree (not exactly the most remunerative career path) with so much debt. 

  • Guest-12

    Why is there more disclosure and honesty with credit cards than student loans? Dear America: WTF?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NHZO25JZG6AONOHE65YWZ62I3I HeXt

    The Executive teams of Sallie Mae, Education Management Corp, Career Education Corp, and every single executive team from the Student Loan/For-Profit College “Industry” needs to be dragged out of their offices and arrested.

    What they’re doing is criminal, but they lobby to legal levels. They need to be arrested and the students refunded 100%. This is the next and worst sub prime crisis ever. Students are TRAPPED in these debts for LIFE, there is NO Bankruptcy or Consumer protections on any of this. And the crooks know it so they take advantage of those that want nothing more than a better future.

    It may not be ALL of the for-profit college industry, but it certainly seems to be all of the wall street traded ones. Wall Street tried to turn colleges into McDonald’s. Now consumers and taxpayers are stuck with the fat.

    Shut these DEBT FACTORIES down and REFUND STUDENTS 100% + Interest.

  • Tschultz1

    The Fed missed a tremendous opportunity here. If they had just used the same money they handed to the banks to forgive student loans then a whole generation of Home buyers would have been jump starting the economy right now.

    • Aslsunshine2u

      I definately agree with that! My husband and I will both be 30 later this year and we are still paying $5000/yr in rent. We feel we can’t start a family until we can get a house, but we can’t get a home loan b/c we owe too much on our student loans + other credit debt

  • Pissed off

    I have been a student at an ACICS accredited university that told me they would have the regional accreditation by the time I graduated.  I graduated in 2002, and was informed they still did not have their accreditation as of yet.  Problem is that most employers who see ACICS will mot hire someone with a BS in accounting with that accreditation.  My debt when I left school was 28,500 which was off by 5,000, and I was being bounced back and forth between Sallie Mae, and Corinthian Colleges (now Everest from Florida Metropolitan University).  The first collection agency my entire loan got transfered to was Allied who tack on an additional 12,000 for interest and cost of collection.  I have not been able to do “jack” with my degree within relevant means for going on 10 years now.  The account somehow got magically consolidated without me signing a physical or any other signature with Sallie Mae, and then it was transferred to the Florida Department of Education, and back about 4 or 5 years ago when they were calling  to collect, they refused an amount of 150 a month saying it was too little, and they revealed my personal information to me over the phone without even asking me to verify it was me.  I have complained to the Ombudsman’s office, and spoke with Angela Brown who apparently uses her hands as butt warmers.  There has been no resolve, and my loan is now up to 43,500 now with the Florida Department of Education.  I do not see the Federal Ombudsman’s office in any sort of a different light for the last 8 years, and when I contacted them this time and spoke with Angela’s supervisor, not much has changed.  There has to be a better way.  These people need black powder and blasting caps for brains.  All of the lawsuits against Florida Metropolitan University caused the name change to Everest, oh, and just try speaking with someone from Corinthian Colleges; all you will get is an inhuman IVR where you will be prompted to leave a message so the owners can continue to have their wine parties at their California location as they already got their federal entitlement money from suckers like me that were told they would have their regional accreditation by the time I graduated.  Most of the jobs I have held up until now were your average $10 an hour call center jobs where you do not get benefits, and God forbid if you have any other payments every month.  This degree has placed me out of jobs because of credit, not allowed me to get the financing that I required when I required it to be able to perform basic bodily functions, and now I am living back home, have a horrendous car payment (yeah, that was my fault), and contemplating using all three of my conditions to claim disability where I would never have used  this in the past. 

  • OLDFLD

    So, you’re all mad at Sallie Mae and the Student Loan/For-Profit College “Industry,” but one must realize that the “fix” that the federal government has assembled serves to place more restrictions and more useless disclosure requirements on small community banks. This is NOT where the problem lies. New private education loan documentation must now be provided at application and again at closing which will no doubt be deposited in the garbage as the borrower walks out the door. Nobody reads ior understands this crap, so why not require even more! And there’s now a three-day waiting period to “cool off” and reverse course if the borrower changes his/her mind. Again, it’s cure for a problem that doesn’t exist at community banks.

    The Feds didn’t bail out “banks.” They bailed out “financial institutions.” Because of the sins of the big boys, your small bank on the corner has to invest in a multitude of changes to systems, documentation, and personnel.

    There should be some exemption for retail banks that provide education loans as an accomodation to their customer base. They’re not in the student loan business. If Sallie Mae is broken – fix it. Don’t punish the entire financial industry.

  • HisDudeness117

    I feel the same way. If we knew then what we know now I would rather not have gone to school. Screw my dream job I would rather not be a slave to the system. All through school they beat into you that you can’t do anything with a high school education, then when you see the cost for higher education you realize you need loans. Then you go to school, get screwed by the economy, and end up working manual labor to try to pay off your loans. A friend of mine didn’t take out loans for school he just worked after high school. Now he makes more money than I do and has no stress. I tried for a future but I realize after the fact that it was just a cover up for financial slavery.

  • ApolloKioku

    I second this opinion, had I known when I was 18 what I know now at 27 I would have avoided the whole education debt trap and just gone straight to working. I have an engineering degree and a minor, and debt service constitutes about 70% of my monthly expenses. Had I been paying attention to the (arguably simpler) mathematics related to my loans rather than my classes I would have quit and run, instead I’ll be stuck repaying for the next twenty-five years. Sally Mae is evil incarnate. I warn every potential student I meet that no degree is worth it if you have to take on massive debt in exchange.

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