March 1, 2024

Bucks Blog: A Tool for Those Who Fall Behind on Student Debt

Have you fallen behind on your student loan payments? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this summer introduced an online tool to help you evaluate your options.

The “Student Loan Debt Collection Assistant” asks a series of questions to help you determine what steps to take if you’ve missed payments or think you may in the future. It starts by asking if you have federal loans — like a Perkins or Stafford loan — or private loans. (If you aren’t sure, the site has a link to the National Student Loan Data System, where you can find the answer). Federal loans generally have more protections for borrowers who fall behind on payments.

If you’ve missed payments already, the tool advises you to contact your loan servicer — the company that collects and keeps track of your payments — to see what can be done to avoid going into default.

If you have federal loans, for instance, you should ask your servicer about alternative payment arrangements, like income-based repayment plans, which may significantly lower your monthly payment.

Fewer protections are available on private loans. In some cases, you can be considered in default if you miss just two payments.

The site says that even if you are in default on a private loan, you have rights. For example, debt collectors attempting to obtain payment of a private student loan cannot garnish your wages without a court order, or seize your federal or state tax refund.

Take a look at the tool and let us know what you think. Have you fallen behind on your student loans? What steps did you take?

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