Q: I am concerned about student loans. Originally, I had my loans deferred. I spoke with a representative, who told me that all three of my loans would be deferred for six months. I received a phone call from a student loan collection agency, which threatened to garnish my wages if I did not make the payment towards my government loan for the next 9 months. I caved; so, I am paying $100 a month.
I was contacted by another collection agency claiming I owed money on a student loan. I just thought the other collection agency must have sold my account. Apparently, all of my student loans were not consolidated.
So now, out of my very limited budget, I am forced to pay in full $100 to one company and $145 to another.
Is there any way possible to have all these loans on one account, so that my payments may be less, and I can keep track of the loans?
A: If I were you, I would first make sure that I double check that I know about all the student loans I have out there. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System can provide you with information on your federal loans, including loan types, disbursed amounts, outstanding principal and interest and the total amount of all your loans. You can access this information on their Web site, and if you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, go to that site or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (800) 433-3243.
You should also pull all three of your credit reports. Any student loans should be listed in your reports.
If you want to see if you can still consolidate your loans, contact any one of your lenders for loans that have not gone into default.
Lastly, if you find you can’t consolidate your loans and you are not in default, check to see if you are eligible for an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) option that is available for your federal loans. IBR is available to all student loan borrowers who have high debt relative to their income. You must contact your loan provider directly to sign up. To find out more about this program, go to the Income-Based Repayment Web site.
And, If you have private student loans, contact the lender to see if there are available programs that could lower your monthly payments.