How To Deal With Private Student Loans When You Fall Behind

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How To Deal With Private Student Loans When You Fall Behind

By |January 14th, 2015|

If you’ve got private student loans, you’re more likely to fall behind on them than on your credit card debt.

Given the way private student loans are structured, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Balances on private student loans tend to be in tens of thousands of dollars, and the notes often carry interest rates approaching those of a standard Visa or MasterCard.

But with private student loans given out to people with little or no income and years of low earnings before they hit their financial stride, those debts are far more likely to fall into default.

Because private student loans are made between private lenders and borrowers, none of the repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers are applicable.  Any refinance or consolidation is handled based on your credit and possible cosigners, rather than through the U.S. Department of Education.

That doesn’t means you don’t have options when it comes to handling your private student loans – only that you’ve got to take a more “do it yourself” approach. Taking these steps may help ease the burden.

Look Into Cosigner Release. Though not all private student loan companies offer it, find out if yours will allow you to get your guarantor off the loan. Companies that do permit a cosigner release will usually do so only if you’ve made timely payments on your loans for a period of time and meet other criteria.

Request A Lower Payment Or Interest Rate. If you’re falling behind on your private student loans, pick up the phone and let the lender know exactly what’s going on. Some lenders may reduce your payment amount or the interest rate, at least for a period of time.

If You Fall Behind, Pretend You’re Current. Once you fall behind on a private student loan, the lender will demand payment in full. assuming you’re not in a position to cut a big check to make it all go away, be sure to deposit some amount of money into a separate savings account each month. This way, you’ll have enough money to consider a settlement or lump-sum payment if one is offered to you.

Protect Your Rights Under Debt Collection Laws. If you fall behind on your private student loans, the lender will send your account to a collection agency. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as various state laws, debt collectors are limited in their ability to deal with you. Understanding these laws is an important factor in making sure that you’re not harassed or treated unfairly.

Read – And Save – Your Mail. Debt collection letters contain important information, and can tell you where you are in the collection process. This may include opportunities to settle your private student loan debt or otherwise get back into the lender’s good graces. Don’t let an opportunity slip by just because you didn’t read the letter.

Prepare To Defend A Lawsuit. Private student loan companies will often take you to court. Failure to defend the lawsuit can result in a judgment, which may in turn lead to wage garnishment and back account levies. Protecting your rights by defending the lawsuit will save you a lot of headache and financial distress.

Just because you’re over your head in private student loans doesn’t mean your life is ruined. By taking the steps outlined here, protecting your rights and approaching the situation with a clear head you’ll be in a better position to come out on top.

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.