With virtually no limits on borrowing, many student loan borrowers jump into massive amounts of debt without having a clear repayment plan in place. Couple that with the fact that the student loan industry is a complicated beast, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Even worse, it can be challenging to know where to find help with student loans, especially considering there are plenty of companies preying on borrowers’ general lack of knowledge. But there are legitimate resources that can provide help with your student loan debt.
Here are some places to turn to for student loan help.
1. Free help with student loan debt
Some borrowers are already cash-strapped and need access to free support to manage their student loan debt. You can find free resources to help understand your student loans from the following:
- Your loan servicer. Although most loan servicers aren’t highly regarded for customer service, it’s still important to keep an open line of communication with your loan servicer. Your loan servicer can help explain the different repayment plans you have access to and can also share deferment or forbearance options if you’re having difficulty making payments.
- Student Loan Planner podcast. Student Loan Planner Founder Travis Hornsby hosts a popular weekly podcast that breaks down the confusing world of student loans. You can hear tips on loan forgiveness, investing, crushing debt, and how to get to financial freedom when you owe more than some people’s mortgage.
- The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. TISLA is a nonprofit organization that provides student loan borrowers with free, neutral and clear advice, as well as dispute resolution assistance.
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The NFCC provides free credit and debt advice, including student loan counseling.
- Student Loan Borrower Assistance. SLBA can connect you with student loan resources, including loan cancellation, debt repayment and referrals for legal services.
Many of these resources can help point you in the direction of additional assistance. Spend some time combing through each one to get the most benefit.
2. Legal help with student loans
Student loan lawyers can help with a variety of federal and private student loan-related issues, including situations like being in default or having disputes with your lender or loan servicer.
A student loan lawyer can also help you resolve cases of fraud and protect you against abusive conduct of debt collectors. These lawyers can also negotiate a settlement for borrowers who have exhausted other options.
SLBA provides a list of legal resources broken down by location. Some of these organizations may provide free legal help for borrowers whose income falls below a certain threshold.
3. Paid student loan debt help
Student Loan Planner offers a variety of resources and services — both free and paid.
Our blog is filled with free resources for the most common professions and student loan situations. But we also offer one-on-one consultations. In fact, we’ve advised people on over $1 billion of student loans — making us the first company in history to do so.
Many of our clients come to us with over six figures’ worth of debt. And they often need personalized guidance that factors in other financial and professional goals.
Our consultants create custom student loan plans that go well beyond recommending a repayment plan that saves you money. We help you develop a repayment strategy that also keeps your short- and long-term financial goals in mind.
We explain each repayment option, but we also show you how to maximize forgiveness programs and minimize your adjusted gross income for tax season.
We’ll even show you how to save for future tax penalties if you choose to pursue an income-driven repayment plan, which is something many borrowers aren’t even aware they can qualify for.
4. Student loan help from your employer or state
Many employers are now offering assistance with paying off student loans as part of their benefits package. Depending on your employer, you might be able to get a few hundred dollars a month to help pay down your loans.
Some employers provide a matching contribution, while others have a set monthly benefit. Check with your human resources department to see what may be offered.
An employer contribution can be a great benefit if your goal is to fully pay off your student loan balance. But there are times when employer student loan repayment benefits can hurt you. Make sure that taking the contribution won’t negatively impact your repayment plan or finances in other ways.
You can also look into student loan assistance programs with your state. Many of these programs are designed to attract talented professionals to underserved communities.
Depending on your profession, you may have access to state forgiveness programs in exchange for fulfilling an established work contract.
5. Student loan help for struggling borrowers
The government can garnish your wages, seize your tax refund or withhold money from your Social Security payments if you default on your federal loans. And falling behind on your federal or private student loans can cause your credit to take a complete nosedive.
Your lender or loan servicer can work with you to find a solution that benefits both of you if you’re experiencing economic hardship.
Call the Department of Education’s Default Resolution Group if you have federal loans in default. They will discuss with you the best avenue to resolve your situation, which may include loan rehabilitation or consolidation.
If your student loan issues are part of a larger financial problem, consider contacting a nonprofit credit counseling organization. A credit counselor can potentially help with your entire financial situation while giving you student loan advice.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re having trouble meeting any of your financial obligations, it’s best to address the issue head-on rather than ignoring it and allowing it to continue to get worse. Reach out to your creditors and let others know that you’re struggling so you can get on track to a better financial future.