How To Get Help From The Student Loan Ombudsman (And When)

how to get help from the student loan ombudsman

A student loan ombudsman is an independent, objective and impartial mediator. Their job is to help student loan borrowers resolve disputes. They are neutral and do not represent either party in the dispute. 

Most lenders and loan servicers have their own student loan ombudsmen. But the federal government has two ombudsmen as well. One federal ombudsman helps federal student loan borrowers while the other works to resolve borrower disputes with private lenders.

In this guide, we’ll share tips on how to resolve your student loan disputes on your own before you seek additional help from a student loan ombudsman. We’ll also provide the ombudsman contact information for the federal government and for several major lenders and servicers.

Most Common Student Loan Disputes

Many student loan issues arise because of the complexity of the federal student loan system. With so many repayment plans to keep track of, it can be difficult for even the most competent of companies to service federal loans effectively. This is precisely why some federal loan servicers have been dropping out.

But servicing issues aren’t just a federal student loan problem. Private student loan lenders are certainly capable of making mistakes too. Regardless of loan type, the most common student loan disputes include:

  • Missing loan payments or loan payments that were not applied correctly
  • Incorrect loan balance
  • Errors involving interest
  • Misleading, inaccurate, or incomplete information provided to the borrower
  • Inadequate accommodations for the borrower’s financial situation
  • Lack of loan repayment options
  • Wrong loan status
  • Illegal lender collection activities
  • Errors in information provided to credit bureaus
  • Identity theft
  • Problems caused by the merging of two or more servicers
  • Problems with quality of customer service
  • Problems relating to requirements for loan forgiveness, loan discharge, deferments, forbearances, and reinstating repayment obligations after discharge
  • Attempts to collect a student loan that was discharged in bankruptcy
  • Problems related to student loan consolidation or refinancing
  • Problems related to student loan settlements
  • Confusion about the difference between federal and private student loans (or types of federal loans)

Sometimes loan balances that are higher than expected can be for legitimate reasons like interest capitalization, negative amortization, or late fees and collection costs.

But inaccurate loan balances can also be caused by loan servicer error in incorrectly applying a payment or losing a payment. Below, we discuss how to resolve these types of issues when they occur.

How To Resolve Student Loan Disputes On Your Own

First and foremost, stay calm. Dealing with loan problems can get emotional. But try to avoid having it affect your interaction with the lender or loan servicer. Venting may make you feel better, but it doesn’t solve your problem. Don’t make threats. 

1. Clarify The Nature Of The Dispute

Start by clarifying the nature of the dispute. What exactly is the problem? What information can you provide relating to the dispute? What is your desired outcome? What are the obstacles to resolution of your dispute?

2. Gather Information

It’s helpful to collect key information about your student loans. Questions you’ll want to get the answers to at this stage include:

  • What is the name and contact information for the lender and loan servicer? (If you don’t know the name of your lender or loan servicer, you can often find this at StudentAid.gov or AnnualCreditReport.com.) 
  • What is the type of loan?
  • Is it a federal or private student loan?
  • What is the interest rate?
  • What is the due date?

Keep copies of documentation, such as bills, proof of payment (receipts, cancelled checks and bank statements showing an automatic transfer), correspondence (letters and email messages), promissory notes, and other proof of your claims.

3. Contact Your Lender Or Loan Servicer

Try to resolve the dispute directly with your lender or loan servicer before filing a formal complaint. Here’s the contact information for the current federal student loan servicers:

Loan Servicer

Phone Number

1-800-621-3115 

1-866-313-3797

1-800-699-2908

1-800-719-0708

Great Lakes (now Nelnet)

1-888-486-4722

1-855-337-6884

1-888-866-4352

1-888-272-5543

1-888-486-4722

1-800-456-6752

There are two situations when you might want to call a different number than the ones listed above. First, if the problem involves death, disability, severe illness, or similar financial challenges, try calling the lender’s main telephone number and ask for their “compassionate review” process.

Second, if you’ve defaulted on your loan and you’re dealing with a collections agency, the Default Resolution Group is the first place to contact. You can get in touch with them at 1-800-621-3115
1-866-313-3797.

4. Document Everything

Keep notes of your conversations with the lender or loan servicer. Write down who you spoke with and the dates and times when you spoke with them, what was said and what you were told. Any details concerning the nature of the problem will be helpful.

If an agreement was reached, follow up in writing to confirm the agreement. Send letters with delivery confirmation or by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you have proof of receipt.
Ask for a response within a reasonable amount of time, such as within a few weeks. Most borrowers receive responses to their complaints within two weeks.

When To Contact Your Lender’s Student Loan Ombudsman

If you don’t get a response from the lender or loan servicer or you’re not satisfied with the response, it may be time to contact a student loan ombudsman.

There are several different types of student loan ombudsmen. Start with the lender’s own ombudsman. Here are links to the ombudsmen for several major lenders and loan servicers. 

The U.S. Department of Education operates a Feedback Center (1-800-433-3243) where you can submit complaints concerning federal student loans (and other federal student aid) in addition to using the ombudsman. 

It’s best to wait a few weeks after submitting a complaint before moving to the next step of reaching out to a federal ombudsman. The lender may respond to the complaint and eliminate the need to escalate the issue.

When To Contact A Federal Student Loan Ombudsman

If working with the lender directly or through its ombudsman fails to yield a resolution, then turn to the federal or state ombudsman. The state ombudsman is usually an office within the state attorney general or state higher education agency.

There are two federal ombudsmen — one for federal student loans and one for private student loans. Here’s how to contact them.

Federal Student Aid Ombudsman

The Federal Student Aid Ombudsman, also known as the FSA Ombudsman, deals with Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), Federal Perkins Loans and other federal student aid. They can be reached by telephone at 1-800-433-3243 or by fax at 1-606-396-4821.

The FSA Ombudsman will research the problem and work with you and the lender, loan servicer or collection agency to resolve the dispute. They can:

  • Identify and evaluate options for addressing your concerns
  • Clarify the requirements for deferment, forbearance, cancellation and discharge
  • Explain how interest, late fees and collection charges work
  • Review your loan payment options

The FSA Ombudsman does not have the authority to overturn decisions of other entities. But, they have a strong track record of success in resolving disputes. If necessary, they will refer you to the appropriate office or organization and provide them with clear information about the nature of the dispute

Private Student Loan Ombudsman

The Private Student Loan Ombudsman is provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You can submit a complaint online or by calling 1-855-411-2372 (TDD 1-855-729-2372).

It can be helpful to look at the CFPB’s consumer complaint database to see how similar problems have been resolved. Seeing how other issues have been addressed could help you phrase your complaint in a way that gives you the best chance of receiving a satisfactory resolution.

State-Based Student Loan Ombudsman

Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have “Ombudsman”-type roles. These are usually served by administrators in financial oversight departments within various states. This goes along with the many “Student Loan Bill of Rights” that states have been passing.

Typically, these offices have shorter wait-times for assistance and can potentially help you get your situation resolved.

California

Celina Damian, Student Loan Ombudsperson 

California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation

(866) 275-2677

CA Department of Financial Protection & Innovation

Colorado

Kelsey Lesco, Student Loan Ombudsperson 

Office of the Attorney General

(702) 508-MySL (6975)

studentloans@coag.gov

Colorado Office Of the Attorney General

District of Columbia

Ricardo Jefferson, Student Loan & Foreclosure Ombudsman

Department of Securities, Insurance & Banking

(202) 727-8000

dcloanhelp@dc.gov

DC Student Loan Ombudsman

Illinois

Michele Casey, Student Loan Ombudsman

Office of the Attorney General

1-(800)-455-2456

Illinois Attorney General Student Lending

Maine

William Lund, Student Loan Ombudsman

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection

(207) 624-8527

Attorney General Consumer Complaints

Maryland

Sean McEvoy, Assistant Commissioner

Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation

(410) 230-6077

Student Loan Ombudsman

Massachusetts

Arwen Thoman, Student Loan Ombudsman

Office of the Attorney General

(888) 830-6277

Student Loan Assistance

Minnesota

Betsy Talbot, Manager

Office of Higher Education 

(651) 259-3965

Office of Higher Education

Nevada

Evelyn Castro, Student Loan Ombudsman

Office of Nevada State Treasurer

(888) 477-2667

Student Loan Ombudsman

New Jersey

Paulette Sibblies-Flagg, Student Loan Ombudsman

Department of Banking and Insurance

(855) 411-2372

Student Loan Information

New York

Scott Ahrens, Student Loan Control Rep

(800) 342-3736

students@dfs.ny.gov

Student Loan and Debt Relief Resources

Oregon

Lane Thompson, Student Loan Ombuds

Division of Financial Regulation

(800) 877-4894

Student Loan Help

Rhode Island

Student Loan Protection Center

Offices of the Attorney General and General Treasurer

(401) 274-4400

Student Loan Protection Center

Virginia

Scott Kemp, Student Loan Advocate

State Council of Higher Education

(804) 786-2832

studentloan@schev.edu

Student Loan Advising

Washington

Jessica Monteiro, Student Loan Advocate

Student Achievement Council

(833) 881-0397

studentloanadvocate@wsac.wa.gov 

Student Loan Advocacy

Other Resources For Resolving Student Loan Disputes

If you’ve followed all of the steps above and haven’t received a satisfactory resolution to your student loan complaint, you still have a few options. For many borrowers, their next step should probably be to file a complaint with the FTC or Better Business Bureau (BBB)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans who are attending or attended a college through the G.I. Bill can file a complaint with the VA GI Bill Feedback System. Military spouses and dependents can also seek help through Military OneSource.

Airing your grievance through social media like Twitter and Facebook can sometimes put public pressure on the company to resolve your dispute. And, finally, your member of Congress may be able to help as they have aides who focus entirely on helping constituents resolve problems with the federal government. 

Editor: Robert Farrington Reviewed by: Chris Muller

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