If you have private student loans, you may have heard of Heartland ECSI. Often lenders use payment collection services through a third party. Heartland ECSI is one of the oldest third-party student loan servicers in the country.
While it’s been around for a long time, you may not know what it does in terms of student loan debt and how it operates. In this Heartland ECSI review, we’ll take a closer look at this servicer and what you can expect when paying back your student loans.
Who is Heartland ECSI?
Heartland Educational Computer Systems, Inc., or Heartland ECSI, is a student loan servicer. That means that it doesn’t offer student loans. Instead, it merely collect payments for loans. It partners with more than 1,900 colleges and universities across the country. It also works with private loan providers to offer collection management services.
Another service that Heartland ECSI offers is payment plans for borrowers with past due accounts. Keep in mind there are management fees associated with using these payment plans and only some institutions participate in this program. Be sure to check with your school to see if this is an option.
What types of student loans does Heartland ECSI service?
Although it doesn’t actually offer student loan funds, Heartland ECSI is somewhat unique in the types of student loans it services. It handles an assortment of loans, including:
- Primary care loans
- Health and nursing loans
- Private student loans
- Refinanced student loans
- Institutional loans
The majority of loans serviced by Heartland ECSI are health and nursing loans through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in the form of Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) and Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL). What most people don’t realize is these loans are actually non-direct federal loans.
Institutional loans are private loans given out by colleges and universities directly but are serviced by Heartland ECSI.
Who has loans through Heartland ECSI?
At Student Loan Planner, we see many HPSL loans held by dentists, nurses, and other health care professionals. We’ve also seen some veterinarians with loans serviced by Heartland ECSI.
With all of these loans, borrowers have no choice as to the loan service provider. Lenders assign Heartland ECSI as the loan servicer and inform borrowers.
Heartland ECSI reviews and complaints
Heartland ECSI has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but they also have their fair share of customer complaints. As of February 2019, it’s had 137 complaints in the last 3 years. This includes 42 complaints in the past 12 months. Also, 66 BBB reviews gave the servicer a 1-star rating. Most of the complaints are related to issues with billing, but there are also numerous complaints of poor customer service.
Options for people with loans serviced by Heartland ECSI
Our experience shows borrowers should move on from Heartland ECSI as soon after graduation as possible. Depending on the type of student loan, there are two main repayment options for borrowers: consolidate your federal loans and pursue loan forgiveness or refinance your loans.
Consolidating your Heartland ECSI federal loans
If you have federal loans serviced by Heartland ECSI, one option is to consolidate your federal loans to a Direct Consolidation Loan. This option makes sense if you’re planning on loan forgiveness through an Income-Driven Repayment approach.
Most likely these are LDS or HPSL federal loans through the HRSA. These loans usually don’t show up on the National Student Loan Data System summary tables.
You can typically tell if you have these loans by looking at your interest rate. All of these types of loans are set at exactly 5%. Institutions choose these loans for students because they have a lower interest rate. But schools fail to realize the interest rate isn’t the only factor to look at when choosing student loans. Mainly, LDS and HPSL loans are considered non-direct student loans. Therefore, they aren’t eligible for any type of loan forgiveness or federal repayment programs. You need to consolidate these non-direct loans to even become eligible for federal forgiveness programs.
As an example, we had a couple come to us recently looking for repayment advice. They were both dentists and had combined student loan debt of $1 million, with $900,000 of their debt being direct federal loans.
They were pursuing income-driven loan forgiveness through Pay As You Earn (PAYE). This couple also had a $50,000 Perkins loan and a $50,000 health professions student loan, both serviced by Heartland ECSI. Without consolidating these ECSI loans, they’d end up paying around $1,000 a month over 10 years, just for these two loans.
However, if they consolidated, that $100,000 would basically be added to the forgiven balance. Their PAYE payments wouldn’t go up because their plan is based on income. Now, they would end up paying about 40 percent of the forgiven amount because of the tax bomb that comes at the end of income-based loan forgiveness.
But that’s 20 years down the road. They have time to financially plan for it. With consolidation, their $100,000 Heartland ECSI loans became like $20,000 to $30,000 in today’s dollars.
Refinancing your Heartland ECSI private loans
If your Heartland ECSI loan isn’t set at a 5% interest rate, you probably have a private loan on your hands. To get out of having Heartland ECSI as your loan servicer and to pay off your loans faster, it might be wise to refinance your loans with a new lender.
The advantage of refinancing is you get to choose the lender and servicer you deal with and take advantage of cashback bonuses available. Doing this could get you a lower interest rate and better terms, saving you thousands in interest.
If you have student loans serviced through Heartland ECSI, take time to determine what type of loans are being handled through the servicer. They don’t go out of their way to explain your type of loan, so you’ll have to do your homework to see if there are better repayment options.
We feel most people with Heartland ECSI loans have better options on the table no matter what type of loans are serviced. The more informed you are about your student loan debt, the better your chances of finding the repayment option that saves you the most money in the long run.