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How student loan servicers work
Everything you wanted to know about the company that handles your repayments.
While less known than lenders, servicers play an important role in the student loan process. They manage your repayments, approve your application for deferment or forbearance and eventually close out your loan.
Who is my student loan servicer?
Your student loan servicer is a company that oversees all aspects of your student loan after you and your school get the funds. You typically first hear from your servicer right after your money is disbursed or during your grace period before repayments begin. Your lender assigns the servicer to you, so you don’t get to choose which company you work with.
Depending on what type of loan you have, you can contact your servicer to:
- Set up a federal repayment plan.
- Sign up for automatic repayments.
- Make repayments.
- Change your payment date.
- Consolidate federal loans.
- Apply for deferment or forbearance.
- Apply for some forgiveness programs.
- Change your address, email, phone number and other contact information.
- Get your annual Form 1098-E to deduct interest payments from your taxes.
With federal student loans, your servicer reaches out to you by email or mail after your loan is disbursed. When it does, you’ll choose a repayment plan and provide your bank account information to establish how you’ll make repayments. The Department of Education works with several federal loan servicers, including:
|Federal student loan servicer||Phone number||Best time to call|
|ACS/Conduent Education Services||800-826-4470|
|American Education Services (AES)*||800-233-0557|
|Aspire Servicing Center||800-243-7552|
|Granite State Management||888-556-0022|
|Great Lakes Educational Loan Services||800-236-4300|
|Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA)||888-866-4352|
|Oklahoma Student Loan Authority (OSLA) Servicing||866-264-9762|
*In partnership with Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).
Since the Department of Education assigns you a servicer, you don’t get to choose which one you work with. If you’re unhappy with your servicer, you can change it by refinancing, consolidating or applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
The Department of Education sometimes transfers borrowers to a different servicer, but this isn’t something you can request. [
How do I find my federal student loan servicer?
If you’re not sure who your federal loan servicer is, you can find it by going to the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website and logging in with your FSA ID. Once logged in, you can view information about your servicer and find out how to get in touch.
Private student loan servicers
Many private student loan and refinancing providers also work with servicers to handle repayments — though some also handle them in house. Like with federal loans, you don’t get to choose your servicer when you take out a private student loan. But unlike federal loans, private lenders typically only work with one company — though there are some exceptions.
Here are some of the most common private student loan servicers:
|Private student loan servicer||Phone number||Best time to call|
|American Education Services (AES)*||800-233-0557|
*In partnership with PHEAA.
How do I find my private student loan servicer?
You can find your private student loan servicer by logging into your online account or reaching out to your lender’s customer service team — they should be able to provide your servicer’s contact information.
How do I change my student loan servicer?
There are three ways to change your student loan servicer, though only one option is available to private student loan borrowers.
1. Refinance with a private lender
You can refinance both private and federal student loans to change up your servicer. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan to pay off your current loans with different rates and terms.
Benefits of refinancing
- More student loan servicers to choose from.
- Might get a better rate on private and Parent PLUS loans.
- Can move a parent loan into your child’s name.
2. Apply for a federal Direct Consolidation Loan
This option is only available for federal student loans. A Direct Consolidation Loan involves combining all of your student loans into one. During the consolidation process, you get to pick your student loan servicer.
Benefits of a Direct Consolidation Loan
- Choose a new federal loan servicer.
- Only make one loan payment on all your loans.
- Some loans may become eligible for more flexible repayments plans.
Drawbacks of a Direct Consolidation Loan
- Federal loan servicers are limited.
- Possible higher interest rate if you had a variable-rate loan.
- Can’t move a parent loan into your child’s name.
3. Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
FedLoan is the only servicer that handles Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) applications. If you’re approved for PSLF, your loans will be forgiven and you’ll work with FedLoan for the short time that you’re closing your loans.
There has been some controversy around PSLF since the first round of applicants applied for forgiveness — 99% were rejected. A government investigation showed that part of this was due to miscommunication between the Department of Education and FedLoan, which gave incorrect information to applicants as a result. Even if you were rejected, you still might be eligible to apply again.
Benefits of PSLF
- Cancels loans after 10 years of eligible repayments.
- Repayments based on your income.
Drawbacks of PSLF
- Must work at an eligible public service job for 10 years.
- High rejection rate.
- FedLoan is your only servicer option.
- Must be on an income-based repayment plan.
What to look out for with a servicer
Unfortunately there have been several cases where student loan servicers didn’t act with borrowers’s best interests in mind and several have faced lawsuits over the way they handle repayments. Here’s what you might want to look out for with your servicer:
- Being pushed into deferment and forbearance. FedLoan and Navient have both faced lawsuits for pushing borrowers into deferment or forbearance, which can increase your debt load. Make sure you really need it before you apply.
- Incomplete information on repayment plans. Some servicers have gotten in trouble for not fully disclosing all repayment options available to borrowers. You can find out what’s available to you by checking out our guide.
- Miscalculated income-driven repayments. You might want to double-check the math on your income-driven repayments (IDR) if they seem off. More than one servicer has faced legal action for miscalculating how much borrowers owe for IDR.
- Wrong information on PSLF. One of the reasons nearly all PSLF applicants were rejected was because they received incorrect information on how to qualify for the popular forgiveness program from their servicer. Consult with other sources to make sure you’re making eligible repayments
Before you switch up your servicer, do some research. Figure out what you value most in a servicer and look for one that offers those qualities. You can do this by checking out its website, customer reviews on Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), as well as complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
What's the best student loan servicer?
There’s no one best servicer for any particular borrower — a bad servicer to one person might be excellent to another. However, some receive more complaints than others.
Here are some of the top student loan servicers ranked by the percentage of complaints received by the CFPB in 2017:
Federal student loan servicers
- ACS/Conduent Education Services: 2% of complaints
- Great Lakes: 3% of complaints
- Nelnet: 6% of complaints
- AES/PHEAA: 15% of complaints
- Navient: 61% of complaints
Private student loan servicers
- Discover: 3% of complaints
- Wells Fargo: 5% of complaints
- Sallie Mae (SLM Corporation): 5% of complaints
- AES/PHEAA: 6%
- Navient: 61%
10 student loan servicers and the refinancing companies they work with
Find a servicer you want to work with? Here are the providers you can refinance through to make it happen:
- Firstmark Services: Citizens Bank, Purefy, CommonBond, Brazos
- AES/PHEAA: PNC Bank, Brazos, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA)
- LendKey: Navy Federal Credit Union
- MOHELA: SoFi, Education Loan Finance (ELFI)
- Navient: Earnest, Brazos
- Granite State Management: EDvestinU
- Nelnet: U-fi, Brazos
- Student Loan Corporation: Advantage Education Loan
- Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation (RSLFC): iHelp
- Aspire Servicing Center: Iowa Student Loans
- PenFed: PenFed Credit Union, Splash Financial, Purefy
5 refinancing companies that provide in-house servicing
Rather refinance with a provider that handles its own repayments? Here are a few companies to consider:
What to expect with…
Change up your servicer with these lenders
How do I consolidate my federal loans through my servicer?
You can apply to consolidate your federal student loans through your servicer by filling out the federal Direct Consolidation Loan application. You can typically download this form from your servicer’s website or through the FSA site.
Once you complete the application, send the form to your servicer. You might want to reach out to your servicer first to make sure you’re sending it to the correct address — many have different addresses for different types of requests.
How do I change my repayment plan?
If you have a federal student loan, changing your repayment plan also involves filling out a form. Each repayment program has a different form and requires different information. For example, if you want to switch to an income-driven repayment plan, you need to provide information about you and your spouse’s income. Switching to a standard repayment plan typically requires a lot less documentation — if any.
Since most private lenders only offer one standard repayment plan, you might need to refinance if you want to lower your monthly repayments or get out of debt faster. But talk to your servicer first. If your financial situation has significantly changed, some providers might be willing to offer an unofficial income-based repayment plan or lengthen your term to help you avoid default.
How do I put my loans on hold?
Federal loans come with a wide range of deferment and forbearance options — and each comes with a separate form. You can reach out to your servicer to get a copy of the form or download it from the FSA website. Either way, reach out to your servicer to make sure you’re sending it to the correct address.
Many private student loan providers also offer deferment or forbearance options if you lose your job or face another financial hardship. Some even allow you to pause repayments for no reason at all. The process of going into deferment or forbearance varies between servicers — you’ll likely have to reach out to learn what your options are.
You don’t get to choose your student loan servicer if you have a federal loan — and chances are you weren’t aware of your servicer if you applied for a private student loan. But it can have an even larger impact on your experience as a borrower than your lender. If you’re with a servicer you don’t like, there are a few ways to switch to one that better fits your needs.
Want to learn more about how student loans work? Check out our comprehensive guide.
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