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How do I file a complaint about my student loan company?

Complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are taken very seriously by lenders. CFPB complaints help borrowers resolve their individual issues and shine a light on shady lender practices, which can lead to government lawsuits against lenders.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Last Updated:

How do I file a complaint about my student loan company?

Complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are taken very seriously by lenders. CFPB complaints help borrowers resolve their individual issues and shine a light on shady lender practices, which can lead to government lawsuits against lenders.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Last Updated:

Dealing with student loans can be a frustrating process. Occasionally, we get bad news from our lenders. Sometimes, what we are being told seems flat-out wrong.

When you feel like you are at your wit’s end, it is important to know that you do have options. One of the better options may be filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB).

The CFPB was created in response to the mortgage crisis and subsequent recession. The purpose of the CFPB is to protect regular people from being taken advantage of by financial institutions.

Not only is filing a complaint with the CFPB easy but doing so can get you results AND the information can be used to help others.

Filing a complaint can help others

One of the best examples of the CFPB complaint process making a difference was when they exposed the practice of auto defaults. A number of people complained to the CFPB that even though they had never missed a payment, when their co-signer died, their loans were automatically placed into default. CFPB used these complaints, created a consumer alert, and brought some attention to this nasty process. It was a positive step for many borrowers.

The only way the CFPB can detect deceptive or fraudulent practices is if consumers complain. When a bunch of people raise the same issue, it increases the chances of something being done.

Here are a few examples of how borrower complaints made a difference:

  • Service members complained about violations of the Service Members Civil Relief Act – As a result of the complaints, one loan servicer was forced to return $60 million to 77,000 service members.  Further, these complaints led to new specific policies that have automatically saved service members over $20 million since 2015.
  • Improvements to signing up for Income-Driven Repayment Plans – Complaints about the difficulty signing up for income-driven repayment plan led to the Department of Education strengthening contractual requirements for loan servicers. The end result was a more streamlined enrollment process.
  • Reducing the practice of “auto-defaults” – By shedding light on the shady lender practice of “auto defaults”, the CFPB drew enough attention to the issue that the largest private lenders have stopped including auto-default provisions in new contracts and stopped trying to enforce “auto-defaults” on older loans.

Filing a complaint can help you fix errors or mistakes

Did your loan servicer make a mistake calculating your balance?

Was there an error processing your payment and now you have a late fee?

Filing a complaint can also bring attention to your individual situation. When you file a complaint, your information is sent to your student lender. They will have 15 days to respond to your specific complaint. According to the CFPB all but the most complicated complaints are expected to be resolved with 60 days.

The good part about this process is that you are getting a third party involved in your dispute with your lender. Obviously, the CFPB is not some magical entity that can fix any problem, but it is one step you can take to ensure you are treated fairly.

How do I file a complaint?

The CFPB has several different complaint forms for various financial institutions, including a student loan complaint form. The form is broken into 5 easy steps.

  1. What Happened? – This is the step where you explain exactly what went wrong with your student loan.
  2. Desired Resolution – For this part, you explain exactly how you think the situation should be fixed. (Tip: Be reasonable, if you ask for a million dollars and a unicorn, you won’t get it)
  3. My information – This is your contact information, make sure you give them an email that you actually check.
  4. Product Information – This is the part you submit information about your lender AND upload supporting documents.
  5. Review

Tips for filing a complaint

You will get the best results if you are reasonable and have good supporting documentation. The best way to communicate with your lender is via email or letter. Phone may get the quickest results, but you have very little in the way of proof at the conclusion of a conversation (unless you have a recording). For this reason, lenders are hesitant to communicate via email or letter. Even if you are forced to communicate by phone, at the very least you can take notes of your phone calls. Track the time you called, who you spoke with, and what was discussed.

If you are going to submit a complaint, you might be able to make it better by discussing it with others first. In addition to the people you may already know, there are Facebook groups dedicated to student loans and student loan discussion forums. Be careful not to share any personally identifying information, but going through the exercise of discussing it with others first can help you better articulate your complaint and help you identify the key issue or issues to focus on.

Start your complaint with the CFPB here.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

13 thoughts on “How do I file a complaint about my student loan company?”

  1. Hello and thank you for the informative article.
    I borrowed both subsidized and unsubsidized, way back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
    First of all, I originally borrowed from Sallie Mae, then later, a company called Co-Step took over, then it was Navient. Why did I not have a choice in who took over my loans? I noted that Navient paid my loans in 10/2005, and now own my loans. I have been on forbearance, as well as, income based payment plans…etc. I have worked the majority of the past 20 years in the healthcare field, minus 4 or so years, due to disability issues, but I am now back to work on the Ticket-to-work program. (Through the Social Security Administration)

    I found out that because Navient owns my loans, I don’t qualify for the CARES ACT benefits regarding student loan payments being on hold and the interest accumulation on hold. Also, I now OWE DOUBLE of what I originally borrowed, due to Interst Capitalization! I had NO IDEA this could be done until now and my principal loan balance has gone from estimate $8250.00 to a whopping $13,214 (it technically states $17,554 was ORIGINALLY awarded, which isn’t the case. Where did an extra $4340.00 come from?) I did not seek out Co-Step or Navient. They came to me. I had no choice in the matter, at least to my knowledge, when this transition occurred. Now, my original debt has BALLOONED to a ridiculous amount (principal) and I honestly find this to be not only a racket, but bad business dealings.

    This year marks the 20 year anniversary of when I took out the loans. I am not in default but late on payments. I am considering applying for ICB payments (I work part-time at the moment) yet worried if I begin that, it will tack on more time regarding forgiveness options.

    I know I am not the only one in this position. I would appreciate any advice in the matter. I’m seriously considering a consult with an attorney whose specialty is with student loans.

    I thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

    Reply
    • Regarding your first question about the line of companies that you keep getting stuck with, borrowers have very little control in this situation. Unfortuantely, student debt sometimes changes hands, servicers change, and borrowers have almost no say in the matter.

      Before doing anything, I’d suggest first investigating what type of loans you have. It sounds like you have federal loans, but the loans are not federally held. This article explains the difference between the two. I’d also suggest taking a look at the federal records on the studentaid.gov website to learn more about your loans.

      Once you are armed with a bit more knowledge, I’d suggest calling your servicer to discuss your status. Your comment seemed to suggest that you had made some progress towards forgiveness. How far along are you? Are all of the loans in the same status?

      Generally speaking, managing federal student loans is a DIY situation unless you need to file bankruptcy. There are exceptions, but most borrowers can get things under control after a few servicer calls and some independant research.

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  2. Hello, reaching out here because I am desperate. I currently owe SM $57,000 broke into 3 separate loans all with a 13.8% interest rate. I knew I had to be proactive with tackling this debt and called in 2 weeks before my account became delinquent. The agent informed me that there was nothing she could do and to call back 2-3 days after my past due date in order to be transferred over to the collections department (that was yesterday). Finally I called back in yesterday after my account has been delinquent to try to get on the rate reduction program. After reading your article I was confident I answered all of her questions efficiently. I was put on a brief hold and then informed that I was ineligible, the only explanation was because I am in a “re-qualification period” I proceeded to ask her to elaborate on that and she COULD’NT. All she said was that I was responsible to pay my loans at the current rate and to reapply for RRP in 6 months. She never mentioned anything about income, co-signer level of income or any valid reason for me being denied. Fun fact, the craziest part to all of this is that the $57,000 dollar loan was for only ONE year of schooling. The other 3 years I had a 75% lacrosse scholarship. I just feel like I was taken advantage of because of my age and lack of knowledge under these circumstances. I feel so defeated, if you have any advice or suggestions to next steps, I am all ears. Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • That sounds devastating. I have a couple of thoughts.

      First, sometimes calling back and trying again will lead to a different outcome. Some reps are more helpful than others and sometimes a second or third try gets the results you want.

      Second, I’d encourage you to ask them what you can possibly do because you can’t afford payments at that obscene interest rate. Tell them you want to work with them, but what they are asking just isn’t possible. Be sure to take notes and write down their exact response. I’d then take this information, along with a detailed history of all the calls and requests you have made to SM, and file a complaint with the CFPB. Be sure to mention the instructions you were given and how you followed them as you did in your comment. A CFPB complaint may lead to attention from someone at SM who can help.

      Lastly, keep up the good work. You are in a tough situation and SM knows that if you give up, and the loan is delinquent for a while, they will make more money. Don’t get discouraged. Stay engaged and keep calling and doing whatever you can to get them to cut you some slack.

      Reply
  3. I am having problems with Navient. I only signed for one student loan, now they have informed me that I have six loans. How can this be? I never gave permission to them to put my name on the loans before the one I signed. Help Please, they call day and night not one time several times a day.

    Reply
  4. Navient refuses to release me of any responsibility for repayment of two large loans my estranged daughter of many years opened, listing me as a co-borrower. They were “smart loans”, opened on an internet site and therefore have no signatures, which I learned after requesting a copy of the loan applications. Despite filing a report with my local police and forwarding a copy to Navient, their half-assed fraud investigation concluded that I AM responsible and that they found NO fraud. Why? Because all of my personal information is correct on the application; something that identity thieves do not typically have. This, in spite of the fact that she listed an incorrect salary for me and the incorrect number of years I have been with my employer. Navient relentlessly calls my home and my cell number at least 10 times every day. They have discharged one loan and listed default on my credit report, and they keep sending me correspondence via UPS that they are litigating the other loan. I CANNOT take it anymore. They WON’T stop!

    Reply
  5. I also received a call that a loan was overdue. I had never been late on a payment and have all payments on auto deduction. Navient tried to take out 9 times what they normally deduct without any prior notification that the loan payment amount was going up (I did receive notification 2 weeks after the withdrawal). The withdrawal cost me $84 in overdraft fees. One of the loans was not supposed to come out of my account, but from my son’s account. They tried withdrawing that as well. When I was speaking to the representative on the phone his response was, well, it was overdue. Really? I call it theft. My son had called a month ago to put the loans in forbearance and and was told that no payment was due until September 22. but they continue to call and demand more money. Now they will not talk to my son about the loans unless he pays them $1170. He has one loan that was not covered last month because of the withdrawal issue. That meant he was $200 delinquent. He already paid them $60 to try to talk with them, so it should really only be $140. They are absolute crooks! As his cosigner, I am getting 3 calls a day. They will not work with us at all.

    Reply
  6. I am getting completely taking advantage of, I submitted evidence that when I attended school in 2009 and did not finish the School sent the money back to the lender. They told me it would take them 30 days to review the evidence given.

    That’s not the worse of it, I have been having my wages garnished, and tax offset twice, every payment they have received gets posted on my account the day after not this time, my employer sent them 900 dollars, which would have brought my balance to 500 then the irs just sent them 2000 dollars but it will take up to 4-6 weeks before that shows up on my account meaning ill still be paying a loan that would be completely paid off I need guidance as I feel I am getting taken completely advantage of.

    Reply
  7. I am currently in college and received a phone call I was late on my student loan. I make my payments on time every month. I logged on to my account and found out my name was on some else’s student loan. All my personal information was on a Plus loan I never applied for or even considered. When I called Navient they told me I would need to call their fraud department… They were the ones commuting fraud? Things that make you go hmmmm. After speaking to Navient in numerous accounts I did call the fraud dept. the lady was very rude. I informed her this is Navients mistake not mine. Long story short they then blocked me from my own online account. A customer advocate from Navient called and treated me like I didn’t know what I was saying. I took pics if screens showing my name on an account that is not mine. I was born 1883 and the persons account my name was placed on had a date of birth of 1953. Something fishy going on. I filed a complaint with the better business bureau. How many other people has this happened to. Do they add other people’s debt in your account??

    Reply
  8. I’ve never had to do this, but I’ll keep it in mind if I ever do. The ways things are going with student loans, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised!

    Reply

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