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  1. #1
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Default Difficulties with Student Loan Income Based Repayment

    I am not sure where to put this thread, but I am, as usual, on a crusade and I wanted to share my experience with a view toward helping anyone else in the same boat and to discover whether there are other folks having similar difficulties.

    My experience:

    We applied for IBR in late summer/early fall. The first application we sent in was rejected because we were supposed to send in separate forms even though my husband's and my loans are consolidated together. We did as they asked and sent the applications back in immediately.

    Around a month or so later, we received a payment book for $380/mo payments. This was nothing like what the online calculator led us to believe our payments would be, so I called in.

    I was told it was correct according to IRS records, etc. I argued that it was not correct and finally, got the customer service person to agree that it was not. She told me she would send it in for investigation and asked me to call back almost a month later.

    I know people who work at call centers, so I was suspicious that she told me that date in order to get rid of me without hurting her personal statistics for call-backs, but I cooperated.

    I called back on the date indicated, 11/18/2009, and was told that the $380 was correct, but the customer service person slipped and said that it was for a family size of one. I reminded him that we have six people in our family and he quickly corrected himself, agreeing that it was for six people.

    I asked to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor agreed that the $380 payment amount was correct, so I asked her how it was calculated. She told me it was 15% of income over 150% of the federal poverty line by family size. I asked her what the poverty line for a family of six was and she told me. It was immediately apparent to me that there was a mistake, because we do not make a lot more than 150% of the federal poverty line for our family size. I gave her the data and asked her if she understood what I was talking about and she said she did not. She said the payment was also based on the amount we owed. I told her that it was supposed to be based on our income and family size, etc. Eventually she put me on hold.

    When she came back on the line, it finally came out that they had us down as a family of one. I do not know how this happened if they were going by either our application or our IRS records. My husband and I have been married 17 years, all four of the children are biological children who have lived with us since their births, the youngest being ten years old.

    I shared this with the supervisor and offered to provide any kind of documentation needed to prove there are six people in our family, but she said it would not be necessary. She said she would correct the data and asked me to call back in 24-48 hours (a more reasonable time frame that made me believe she was not BSing me).

    I called back the next day and discovered our new payment is $30.20, which our family can afford and still buy groceries. We received the payment booklet confirming the payment amount in the mail a few days ago.

    Suggestions based on this experience:

    If you are having trouble with Sallie Mae or another student loan company giving you an outrageous payment amount, I suggest making sure they have your data for income and family size correct.

    Be prepared to cut through service people who will flat out lie to you about your data and treat you like you are being unreasonable and ignorant, just make it clear that you are not going to give up and go away and do not agree to any long periods between call backs, because the service person is probably just screwing with you and covering their own rear in the process.

    Requisite NF crazy anti-corporate conspiracy theory:


    I do not think Sallie Mae wants to give people Income Based payments, so they have given their customer service people some weird instructions/incentives in order to prevent people from getting it, knowing that many people will just give up.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  2. #2
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Yep, and get names.. dates, and keep them in a safe place. It makes so much difference if you can prove WHO you spoke to and when.

    All very frustrating this stuff (as a tax adviser I deal with Government "financial" people all the time)

    It can help to follow it up with a letter confirming what was agreed by phone - annoying to do but if you get stuck and need to get a "review" from a higher level management person this stuff is like gold.

  3. #3
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    Be prepared to cut through service people who will flat out lie to you about your data and treat you like you are being unreasonable and ignorant, just make it clear that you are not going to give up and go away and do not agree to any long periods between call backs, because the service person is probably just screwing with you and covering their own rear in the process.

    Requisite NF crazy anti-corporate conspiracy theory:


    I do not think Sallie Mae wants to give people Income Based payments, so they have given their customer service people some weird instructions/incentives in order to prevent people from getting it, knowing that many people will just give up.
    I agree. I think customer service people's modus operandi is to BS in favor of receiving money. Often they don't know anything about the actual issue, and are not a source of communication or problem solving.

    I suspect Sallie Mae and all the rest operate like the insurance companies where they are required to reject any claims in the customer's favor initially, so that they lose less money. I don't think it is an NF crazy anti-corporate conspiracy theory. It's pretty well laid out and obvious.

    I'm glad you were able to straighten it out. What a horrible stress.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
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    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
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  4. #4
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Thanks very much for this post Cafe.

    I graduated from college in 2006 and have had nothing but headaches from Sallie Mae mainly not applying payments to the proper loan group and thus telling me I didn't make payments. I finally got them this summer after months and months of phone calls and letters to take two loans out of a particular group of loans. I stretched out my forbearance and deferment as long as a possibly could but this year I had to start ponying up and consolidated. Direct Loans has actually been quite helpful and I haven't had any difficulties.

    Along the way I found out the case managers who handle your accounts switch every 6 weeks and if they don't make the proper notations within the computer (I swore if I heard "the computer says..." again I was going to send them dead rats in the mail) many of the requests and communications you have via telephone essentially get lost. Even if you get the person's ID number they often switch call centers so they'll tell you to call back on one number, you ask for the person, and they have no clue who it is. It was such a headache writing long emails but it ended up being better than telephone because of course there's a paper trail.

    I really wish all of this intricate loan stuff had been explained to me before I started college. I had no clue what a Stafford, Perkins Loan, or Parent Plus Loan was (let's not even get into the private loans!), what subsidized and unsubsidized meant, the importance of paying interest and chunking into your principal if you could. All I knew is that I completed my FAFSA and they offered me money. Unfortunately my family income didn't allow for many grants because my parents made a couple thousand dollars over the limit to qualify for most grants.

    These are some helpful websites I've found.

    Student Loan Borrower Assistance
    FinAid! Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans
    Student Loan Assistance
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
    Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts
    Social Penetration Theory 1
    Social Penetration Theory 2
    Social Penetration Theory 3

  5. #5
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    It's a nightmare. We preach scholarships, scholarships, scholarships to our kids and relate to them the evils of student loans (all debt for that matter).

    We had no idea what we were getting into or just how little our educations would do toward supporting us. Maybe we should have known, but we just didn't have the guidance.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  6. #6
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    It's a nightmare. We preach scholarships, scholarships, scholarships to our kids and relate to them the evils of student loans (all debt for that matter).

    We had no idea what we were getting into or just how little our educations would do toward supporting us. Maybe we should have known, but we just didn't have the guidance.
    It can also help to get your first two years at a cheap community college, and/or attend landgrant universities with cheaper tuition.

    Last year I was below the poverty line for a single individual, and sent in my request for deferment via snail mail and fax. One submission was accepted, and the other required documentation for running a small business with employees. I had to call around to a bunch of accountants to see how I could obtain the required documents, and they became greatly confused when I explained that I was not running a business, but was working many part-time jobs and so was classified as self-employed. I guess I was talking to a customer service person at the student loan office who thought they knew accounting. Fortunately it turned out that whoever received the faxed copy, sent the approval on through.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  7. #7
    Junior Member FaithBW's Avatar
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    This is good to know as I have loans with Sallie Mae and right now am paying a ridiculous amount of money every month. I'm not sure if I should do a deferment or income sensitive repayment.

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