By John Sandman
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In December, the Department of Education (ED) announced plans to establish a new web-based system for receiving complaints on student loan servicers. In March, President Obama directed ED to build a web-based portal for student loan borrowers to manage payments, view all of their loans and lodge complaints against servicers as part of his Student Aid Bill of Rights.
Today, anyone clicking on Contact Your Student Loan Servicer at ED’s student aid Website, loan servicer advice is limited to phone etiquette -- keeping “careful notes on all conversations you have" and making the suggestion that the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group should be contacted "only as a last resort."
With ED's web-based portal a no-show, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) mounted a road show which opened in Milwaukee last week in an attempt to deal with this nagging problem.
Calling it a "public inquiry," CFPB director Richard Cordray said the goal was to gather information on loan servicing practices.
“A servicer is a borrower’s primary point of contact," said Deanne Loonin, Boston-based attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. "If the servicer is competent and efficient, many distressed borrowers will avoid default.”
Servicers manage borrower accounts and monthly payments but aren’t always the same company that originated the loan. Borrowers have no control over which company services their loan, and it’s the borrower’s responsibility to obtain deferments and forbearances of modifications of loan terms in the event of a financial hardship. Major servicers include Navient, Nelnet, Great Lakes and PHEAA, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.