I am a student loan lawyer who specializes in student loan debt resolution. In 2010, as a bankruptcy and debt resolution attorney, I was drawn to the growing problem of student loan debt and the enormous burden it was straddling an entire generation with. I decided to specialize in that area of law because the need was so great, and the problem seemed destined to grow out of control.
I want to share my experiences as a student loan lawyer, and I want you to know that I understand what you are going through. I can help you! I assist student loan borrowers every day, and I love doing it. What I see on a daily basis is borrowers who seem paralyzed with denial, frustration, fear, or hopelessness — or those unable to find the help that is available to them. Let me help you avoid these traps of inaction:
Oftentimes I deal with clients that have denied the existence of their student loans. They have lived their life, after college, as if the debt never existed. This comes from a history of either purposeful forgetfulness or inadvertent suppression. Either way, the ostrich has its head buried in the sand.
Dealing with the payment of student loans can be the most frustrating experience you can encounter. The whole process, I have found, is full of misinformation, deception, poor business practices, greed and lack of regulation. Wits end comes to mind.
Fear is typically the motivating factor for clients to contact my office. At some point, they’ve had something communicated to them that has caused them to finally address the student loan debt or suffer some very uncomfortable consequences. It could be a call from a parent, message from payroll advising them their wages are being garnished or a process server at the door. The stack of unopened letters from unknown entities has become the paper grim reaper.
Sometimes I have to resolve the fear of enduring the consequences that are in play.
I think the net result of all the above is hopelessness. Lost and numb from fear and frustration, potential clients come to me and tell me about their painful journeys. By analogy, it’s like the feeling you get when you first realize you are lost in the forest — no map, no compass, no light at the end of the pitch black tunnel.
This is where my value as a student loan lawyer comes in. My goal is to help everyone who cares to listen. There is professional assistance out there provided by knowledgeable, trained and experienced attorneys who specialize in student loan law — not many, but they’re out there, and I am so very proud be one of them.
Student loans come in two different packages:
These loans were made by a private bank. They are like a credit card on steroids. They can be subject to all kinds of negotiated terms, depending on where they are in the repayment or default process, who is collecting on them, and the nature and extent of the loan itself. Everything is subject to negotiations without federal regulations.
These loans are guaranteed by the federal government or were made by the U.S. Department of Education directly. They are subject to a wide variety of federal regulations that can be very frustrating to deal with.
Federal student loans have a wide variety of repayment options that can be very flexible. Some of these options can be used to get defaulted federal student loans back on track or even settled or discharged.
The identification of the key players is essential in obtaining an appropriate student loan debt resolution plan.
This is a bank that initiated the loan. This loan can be guaranteed by the federal government, making it a federal loan, or it could have been initiated by a private bank, so it’s a private student loan. The U.S. Department of Education could also have been the lender, which would make it a direct federal student loan.
This is otherwise known as the servicer. The servicer’s function is to collect money, send monthly reminders, operate their online platform and track payments. These are the entities that call you for payment.
There are many well-known servicers that have been around for quite some time, including Navient, Great Lakes, FedLoan and Nelnet.
Some servicers handle just federal loans. Some just handle private student loans. To add to the confusion and frustration, if you have private and federal student loans, they can be serviced by the same servicer. In this case, you really have no idea where your payments are going and to which loans the payments are being applied.
Some federal student loan servicers handle special repayment programs.
This is a collection agency — and there are many of them, with all kinds of names. They come in all shapes and sizes and they come in varying degrees of proficiency. They can be collecting for federal and private student loans.
In a defaulted federal student loan situation, the holder of the loan could be the U.S. Department of Education, which has hired a debt collector to collect the loan.
This is the hired gun. The attorney’s job is to get the money flowing in the right direction, as they see it. Meaning, they will do whatever is needed to get your money out of your pocket and into theirs. This may come by way of collection letters or by a lawsuit. Exactly who their client is can be confusing because oftentimes it’s no one you have ever heard from or you simply do not recognize their name. The vast majority of lawsuits I see involve prosecution for the collection of private student loans.
If you hear from an attorney who is from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education is the client. I have only seen a very small number of these types of lawsuits. But the ones I have seen have been monsters.
Typically, federal collection lawsuits are initiated for the collection of student loans taken out by professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, psychologists and chiropractors who are in private practice, which has made collections difficult. These collection lawsuits involve very large sums of money.
The starting point on all student loan debt resolution plans is to obtain the student loan report from the U.S. Department of Education. This report is vital to answering any student loan question. I won’t even comment on your situation without having first reviewed this report.
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's tracking system used to identify all federal student loans obtained by a borrower, including parent loans, undergrad and graduate school loans, consolidated loans, Stafford and Perkins Loans, and any other federal student loans. Private loans will not be listed here.
Here are instructions for obtaining your NSLDS report. Once I get the summary of all your loans, called the Financial Preview, as well as the detail of each of the loans, we are in a good position to discuss where your federal student loans are, what type, the status, and the payment history. From this basic foundation, we can begin to look at options.
If you have other loans that are not federal student loans, they will appear on your credit report. I use a current credit report as a guide, not a rule. The best way to really understand your current debt picture is to review all correspondence received in the mail. Letters that are never opened or thrown away may contain important information and should be reviewed before being discarded.