Washington -- In case it appears from the last few posts that I am down on all student loan lenders, guarantors, and servicers, let me balance that with a few words of appreciation for good outfits.
There are bad apples and good apples in any business. In the student loan industry, there are several previously good apples that have gone bad, corrupted. Then there are bad apples that somehow miraculously became good. (I am thinking of one in particular that, after a bad experience, put new and credible people on its board, diversified, and is now even bringing a good apple into its business; time will tell if I am right.)
One good apple in the business, I have always felt, is American Student Assistance of Massachusetts. Allesandra Lanza of ASA is a contributor to web pages that give truly useful advice to borrowers. When borrowers are at their wits' end and don't know where to turn for help, she offers good links to explore. She is also brutally honest about the shortcomings of loan servicers when she writes that in the face of
"growing concerns that student loan servicers aren't always looking out for borrowers' best interests, it's never been more important for student loan consumers to stay informed on their rights and protections."
In other words, buyer beware. If you think your loan servicer is being straight with you, as opposed to looking out for how it can make more bucks off you, think again. One servicer, Navient, has even blurted out, “There is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer." Take that, borrowers.
Now, to all borrowers who have contacted me, hoping I can help them (and I dearly wish I could), let me pass on the suggestions of Allesandra Lanza as to sources of help that you may not have considered. Click on the link in the preceding sentence. Here is what you will see, in part:
• State attorneys general: If your state has not enacted any student loan protections on its own, the attorney general's office is a good place to learn more about your rights as a borrower.
For example, in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey has established a Student Lending Assistance Unit that provides a hotline and free mediation service to borrowers who are having difficulties with student loans.
• Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: This bureau continuously collects student loan borrowers' complaints, investigates trends and regularly issues reports on its findings. In addition to forwarding complaints about the company handling your loan so that it can hopefully resolve the issue, the CFPB may also use your feedback to inform its rule-making process as it creates and enforces federal consumer financial laws.
• Consumer advocates: A number of consumer advocacy organizations work on behalf of student loan borrowers.
Two prominent ones are the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project and the Project on Predatory Student Lending out of Harvard Law School. Both groups offer direct assistance to borrowers, as well as frequently integrate testimony from their clients when they participate in student loan policy discussions and debate.
• Your congressional representatives: Of course, there's always the tried-and-true method of contacting your congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. You can find contact information for the House of Representatives and Senate and then raise your concerns with each representative's office.