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More Student Loan Drama

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Wow! If ever there was a cautionary tale for staying out of student loan debt, this is it!

First, former blogger Adam explained his issues with his loan service provider, Great Lakes.

Next, I talked about my ongoing issues with my service provider, Navient (formerly Sallie Mae).

Now I’ve got a new grievance to add to the list – directly with the central hub of government-backed student loans:  studentloans.gov

For new readers, my student loans are currently on Income Based Repayment (IBR). I talked a little about the decision here.

Well for any old school borrowers, you’ll know that to access any documents through studentloans.gov (such as filing for IBR, or filling out the required annual paperwork to keep IBR), you used to need a PIN that was assigned by them. Apparently as of March 1st, they have done away with the PIN system. Instead, you now get to pick your own login ID and password.

Seems easy enough, right?

No. Just no.

I created my new ID and password and verified the information by answering security questions about myself. According to FSAid.ed.gov everything is good. Now I can go back to studentloans.gov to actually fill out my IBR paperwork. Right?

WRONG!

Studentloans.gov keeps saying my account is currently locked. I go back to FSAid.ed.gov and unlock my account (by going through the same steps of verifying my account information by answering security questions, etc.) and go back to studentloans.gov. Account Locked.

I literally do this back-and-forth for about 45 minutes, thinking surely I’m making a mistake somehow.

No.

It’s past business hours at this point, so I send an email to the help department explaining the problem. The next day I get a reply saying:

“You can no longer use your PIN, you have to create a new FSA ID and password.”

Yes, geniuses. I know this. I did this. Your site won’t let me in! GRRRR!!!!

I let it go for a few days but came back to it today. Same endless loop of verifying my information on the FSA ID website, only to go to the studentloans.gov website and be told my account is locked.

I call the FSA ID number.

It rings. And rings. And rings. Then *click*

Disconnected.

I try again. And again. And again. Five times in total. Every time ends with being disconnected before even speaking with a human being.

So then I call the number listed on the studentloans.gov website. They actually answer but basically say there’s nothing they can do, that they only help with issues once you’re already logged in. For login issues, I have to call the FSA ID people. And I’m given the same number I’d already tried. I explained that no one answers. I’ve called several times and keep being disconnected.

And I kind of get a “tough shit” reply. There’s nothing they can do. The woman assumes that their system is overwhelmed by call volume and simply disconnects after a period of time. Keep trying, she says.

SOOOOOOOO, I have no option but to keep trying. THANK GOODNESS I didn’t put this off until last minute (my IBR doesn’t actually expire until August). If I’d waited until last minute and was unable to log in and get my IBR paperwork submitted, then when my current IBR expires my minimum payments would skyrocket – nearly a thousand a month (instead of the $350ish current minimum).

So for anyone else in the same boat that will need to reapply for IBR or anything else related to student loans (deferment, forbearance, etc.), BE SURE TO START EARLY!

But if you have the option….just avoid student loans all together.

Work for free as an intern somewhere in exchange for paid college tuition. Work nights and weekends as a waiter to cover your tuition. Go to community college so its more affordable for the first couple years. Stay in-state so you don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. Get a job on campus in exchange for reduced tuition. WHATEVER IT TAKES – STAY AWAY FROM STUDENT LOANS!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s your little public service announcement and another student loan cautionary tale.

Have a great day! ; )

Any student loan cautionary tales of your own? Leave me a comment!


23 Comments

  • Reply Danielle |

    I would recommend reaching out to your federal elected officials. Your congresspeople have local offices with people who are there to help with this sort of thing. At the very least, they should be made aware of the problems with this federal site…

  • Reply Jennifer |

    I was caught in a loop of a mess trying to create an FSA id the other night so I could amend a FAFSA. Nightmare! On another note but related to your end paragraph- I would love a post from you explaining your thought processes when these loans were taken out. Thoughts you had on how immediate years after graduation would go and how you feel in hind sight about the decisions you made to get your degrees. You probably summed it up with that last paragraph…I have started to share your story with my daughter who is getting her masters in college administration. Every time I see your balances I shake my head and wonder …..didn’t anyone tell you that was an awfully lot to be borrowing? In a nice, sincere tone I say…what were you thinking?

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’d be happy to write a post about this if it could be informative or helpful for others. The short answer is that I don’t think I really comprehended the amount of loans I was taking out and what I was committing myself to in the long-term. There’s also a whole culture in grad school that this is “normal” and its just what you do to get the education (and, of course, education is always a good thing, right? ha! I don’t believe it anymore, but that had always been engrained in me). Also, from a psychological aspect, you only deal with the loans on a semester-by-semester basis (one semester amount at a time). It wasn’t until I was doing my exit-loan counseling at graduation that I realized the full balance of my student loans. That may sound ignorant or idiotic, but true. I must have been in denial because I knew it was a lot, but I’d never once added up all my loans until exit-loan counseling.

      • Reply Angie |

        You summed it up perfectly! Most students don’t have people advising them on the long-term consequences of loans. Couple that with interest adding up while in school and annual tuition increases and the number can get astronomical quickly.

        I racked up 100k for undergrad. No one talked to me at all about college costs even during school. They handed me the total at the exit loan counseling, and even then it was only the original balance. But there was 10-20k interest on top of that accumulated in school. Somehow as a 17 year old I was supposed to know about the long term consequences?

  • Reply Jan |

    oh how frustrating! that sort of stuff just does my head in – glad you were able to finally get it sorted. Our loan system is different downunder- not quite as expensive as in US but heading that way. Fortunately I finished paying them off last year. In my job I advise students about college and I always go through the loan system with them and the costs of study. I get them to make a list of all the questions they need answers to before they make a decision. That would be my advice – get ALL the information, read the fine print and ask questions, take the time to look into loans fully before signing on the dotted line and yes, if there is any way you can avoid them, then do it. I use to read a great blog about a student who live in his van to avoid debt – extreme perhaps but no debt at the end of it.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a great idea! I have taught several 100-level courses over the years (the huge intro courses) and I’ve made students interview people in their field of choice. One of the questions they ask about is salary range and many are SHOCKED to discover that (x, y, z) career they thought was so fabulous only makes 40k a year. Puts things in perspective while taking out loans when you have an idea of how much (or little) you’ll get paid on the other end of school.

  • Reply Alexandria |

    You and Adam scared me off student loans for good. For sure! 😀 On the bright side, this is just motivating you to pay these suckers off, right?

    No one in my family has had any student loans. I would wish the same on my own kids. I have been told I am moron because of this, basically, but reading this blog has only made me more anti-debt over the years. & that’s the thing, it’s not just about the interest rate. It’s the idea of keeping track of 10 loans and dealing with all that red tape. UGH! I just read an article the other day about how many retirees still have not paid off their student loans. Imagine dealing with this your entire life!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I believe it! And it’s so accepted amongst grad students. The common consensus is just that the loans will always be around. Like a 30-year mortgage! Insanity!

  • Reply Maureen |

    I have been SOOOO lucky to have all my loans with ACS. None of them have been sold (fingers crossed), and I can make extra payments to any loan I want with the click of a mouse. Best of luck! Yes, student loans suck!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, too! ACS was awesome, but my ACS loans were just sold to Navient (boo! hiss!) The crossover hasn’t happened yet, but they said it would occur within the next month or two.

  • Reply AT |

    Send the help desk folks a series of screen shots if you can. that way you have email documentation when it comes time to escalate.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    I think one of the big problems today is that parents are just not proactive enough about advising kids against student loans and looking for alternate ways to pay for college. Three of our four children were awarded ROTC scholarships (one to Notre Dame and two to Cornell.) This meant they had to do well in high school, and doing well in school was something we encouraged! It also meant that my husband and I did a lot of investigating about scholarships on our own. I also tracked down every local scholarship I could find that was applicable. Our fourth child went to Wake Forest where she was offered a very good financial aid package. (She only had to borrow $1,000/year.)

    If these choices had not worked out, we would have investigated another route–community college, living at home and driving to the state university extension in a nearby city etc. They also worked jobs in high school and during the summers. They all went on to get master degrees on their own dime without debt. BTW, the military experience was great for all. One son has made it a career, and the two others enjoyed their tours in Germany and Italy! Parents, don’t let your high school kids sign on that dotted line and forfeit their futures! You are the adult and must give them guidance. A 17-year-old does not have a clue.

  • Reply first step |

    Have you tried logging in on a different browser or computer? Recently, I had trouble resetting my health insurance account password until I tried another browser. Not discounting that it’s a government/website malfunction, but check on computer issues as well.

    Have you checked on refinancing your private loans or getting loans through peer-to-peer lending? You may be able to get lower rates that way along with the 0% balance transfers as you pay off your higher rate loans.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I did try a different browser and it hadn’t worked. Just today I was finally able to speak to a person at their 800 number and they had to reset the whole thing (whole new username and password), so I have no idea what the problem was but I was finally able to log in and submit my paperwork.
      In terms of refinancing – I haven’t ruled it out of consideration in the future but I don’t feel comfortable really pursuing it as an option until after all my other consumer debts are gone (at this point I’m down to just the car loan). I like the assurances that the government has in terms of being able to apply for deferment or forbearance if something big came up.

  • Reply May |

    After graduating undergrad with $20,000 of student loan debt, I decided to stop and not pursue higher education. To each their own I guess. But in your case, I can see how you would need a PHD to pursue a goal of teaching college.

  • Reply Cori |

    I took out student loans for my Master’s degree, but only $20,000…I say that like it is $5, but it is not…I have been paying back for 6 years now and still owe about $9,500…we just paid off a couple of things so I am hoping to be rid of this sooner than expected. My advice would also be to contact you federally elected official. That is an endless loop and you are trying to do what is right.

  • Reply Richard |

    I am going through the same hell right now. I try to log in with my fancy new FSA ID and it says my account is locked. I go through the process of unlocking it and it takes me on the same endless loop. As i write this i am currently waiting on the phone (30mins now) hoping that I actually get to talk to a human being. Crossing fingers!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hopefully this is already resolved! If not, they ended up making me re-set my password (again) so you could try that if you still haven’t gotten in yet. It’s absolutely infuriating and makes no sense! Hope you get into your account soon!

  • Reply jules gabriel |

    ashley –

    i’m so glad i saw this! i’m fighting with the same exact thing! please share the 800 number you used that got you in touch with someone who could help. thank you!!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I just kept trying the number on the FSA website (FSAid.ed.gov) until someone finally answered. Good luck!

  • Reply Dominique Speckhardt |

    So I’m guessing that FSA ID finally started working because the same exact thing is happening to me except I’m trying to use my FSA ID to access my fafsa and change it as well as completing it. It never works because it keeps constantly locking when I try using it either says my username and password for FSA ID does not exist in their system than it will say my FSA ID is locked its annoying I’ve been trying for nearly a week now.

So, what do you think ?