Make Sure You Confirm Your Income-Driven Repayment With Your Loan Servicer

Loan servicers are designed to help you, the consumer of student loans. But let's be honest, the most important metric for a student loan servicer isn't customer service. Beyond that, you're not designated one point person who understands your goals and has your best interest at heart. When you call in to your loan servicer, you get someone at a call center, who's probably overworked and underpaid. I have had amazing luck with my student loan servicer, Great Lakes, and they seem to do an excellent job, but even among their representatives, I get conflicting information when I call.

I recently needed to recertify my income and renew my income-driven repayment. The due date for it to be completed was 02/10/2020, so I completed the documentation through Great Lakes and the department of education back in December of 2019. As the weeks and months wore on, my account information never updated on the Great Lakes website. I was approved almost immediately for my new repayment plan through the Department of Education, but for some reason my profile still showed that I needed to renew my payment plan. Once we got to January, I decided to give Great Lakes a call and see what was going on.

Did I need to reapply? Was something missing on my paperwork? Did they just forget to update it on their end? What's the deal? One of the representatives at that time told me that since my renewal date was February 10th, and my payment wasn't due until February 15th, that my profile would update on the 10th or 11th to reflect my new income-driven repayment. On February 14th, there were still no updates to my profile, so I decided to call again. My payment was due the next day. I needed to know if they were going to pull $600 from my account or $900 (which is about what I estimated my new payments would be). I wanted to be certain of two things. First, that my income-driven repayment was actually accepted by the department of education, and second, I wanted to make sure that my payment would count towards my 20 years of repayments. I had documentation that said my application had been accepted, and I had my previous phone call with the Great Lakes representative, but I still wanted to be certain. I don't want to be one of the many borrowers who is denied student loan forgiveness, simply because a few of the payments from 10-20 years ago didn't actually count towards forgiveness.

During my second call with a representative from Great Lakes, the representative was just as confused as I was. It was already past February 10th, so why hadn't my payment plan updated? He could see the documentation from the Department of Education, and could even tell that my new payment was going to be $900 each month, but he couldn't tell why it was still only $600 for February 15th. I then recalled having a similar problem last year when I switched over to PAYE from REPAYE. I recertified my income early, to get into PAYE sooner, but it still took several months for my profile to update, and for my payments to reflect that switch. I was assured that this was likely the case this time as well, and also that my automatic payment of $604.41 would count towards my eventual student loan forgiveness.

Had I not called, and just let things play out, the outcome would have been exactly the same, but I want to be in control of my student loans. I don't want my student loans to have control over me. I understand that student loans are scary, and many people don't like talking about their student loans at all, but trust me, the better you understand your student loan situation, and the better the plan you have in place, the better you'll feel about your financial situation as a whole. Isn't that what we all want anyway? Everyone dreams of having a huge house and a mega-yacht, but in reality, we all really just want enough money that we don't worry about it everyday. When you reach that point, that's when you'll know you're really financially free.