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Updated on Friday, January 15, 2016
According to Chairman Mike Dunlap, Nelnet’s overall mission is to “make educational dreams possible.” It’s headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, and more than five million borrowers have their student loans (federal and private) serviced by Nelnet.
Unfortunately, as a federal student loan borrower, you don’t get to choose the company that services your loans. While the U.S. Department of Education remains the owner of your loans, you’re assigned to one of ten federal student loan servicers when your loans are disbursed. Nelnet is one of those ten.
If your student loans are serviced through Nelnet and you’d like to get a better idea of what to expect in terms of customer service, information and services available through the website, and how to dispute an issue with Nelnet, read on.
Overview of Nelnet
Nelnet’s website is fairly easy to navigate, and all the important information is provided on the front page in a grid pattern. Pages worth a visit include:
- Lower your payment with a new repayment plan: A large amount of federal student loan borrowers aren’t aware that they can apply for a different repayment plan and lower their minimum student loan payment. If you’re experiencing financial difficulty, you should check to see what options are available to you. Nelnet provides a chart that compares all the repayment options, and it also gives you instructions on how to change your plan.
- Postpone your payments with deferment or forbearance: Similar to the page above, it’s useful to know when you’re eligible to hit “pause” on your student loan payments. Forbearance and deferment are temporary fixes, whereas repayment plans tend to be more permanent. Either one will help in the event you hit a rough spot with your finances. Nelnet breaks down the different types of deferment borrowers may be eligible for, and explains how you can apply.
- Get financially fit: This is Nelnet’s library of financial knowledge that any recent graduate can benefit from. There are worksheets for budgets, tips on how to use credit responsibly, how to safeguard yourself from identity theft, a worksheet for your financial goals, and more.
- FAQ: Every loan servicer has one, but it’s worth reviewing the popular questions so you know what to expect. For example, Nelnet covers making payments, how to opt-in to automatic debits, how payments are applied, payoff and tax information, and what happens when your loans become delinquent.
Many loan servicers offer knowledge centers that borrowers aren’t aware of. It pays to familiarize yourself with the site as you’ll likely be spending a lot of time there throughout your student loan payoff journey.
What Borrowers Are Saying
Nelnet has had 343 complaints closed with the Better Business Bureau in the last three years at the time of writing. The most common problem cited involves the product and service offered, as well as billing and collection services.
Some complaints are in reference to Nelnet reporting loans incorrectly to the credit bureaus, with loans showing as delinquent or default when they were paid. Other complaints are about the lack of customer service – borrowers have attempted to contact Nelnet several times, or have tried to submit paperwork, and Nelnet insists it hasn’t received anything from the borrower.
In a post on The College Investor about Nelnet, many people have commented that they’ve experienced difficulty in getting their loans paid down properly. Among their complaint were that Nelnet fails to acknowledge payments at times, doesn’t communicate clearly with borrowers when their loan is transferred, and sometimes drops the ball when borrowers apply for forgiveness, discharge, or forbearance.
This is not acceptable behavior from a student loan servicer. You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get a servicer to acknowledge that you’ve made a payment or a special request, and it shouldn’t be reporting false information to the credit bureaus (though that happens more often than you think – make sure you make a habit out of checking your credit report!).
First Steps to Take to Resolve Disputes With Nelnet
If you’ve been trying to contact Nelnet to no avail, you should be keeping a paper trail or detailed notes documenting each attempt.
If you haven’t tried contacting Nelnet yet, then you should. Despite some people having communication issues, it’s your job to alert Nelnet to the problem you’ve been experiencing. Have you been emailing Nelnet or submitting a secure form online? Then try calling instead. Different methods of communication may yield different results.
It can be a pain to go through this, but if your issue is severe (such as having false information on your credit report), you need to take every action possible to get Nelnet to fix it.
There are several ways to contact Nelnet:
You can email a representative by filling out a form.
You can call them 24/7 at 1-888-486-4722. The fax number is 877-402-5816.
Its general correspondence address is:
P.O. Box 82561
Lincoln, NE 68501-2561
Note that there are different mailing addresses for documents related to deferment, forbearance, repayment plans, and enrollment status changes, as well as loan discharge and forgiveness claims, and bankruptcy claims. Those can be found on the “Contact Us” page.
Nelnet also claims it answers any questions asked via Twitter or Facebook within 24 hours. It’s worth a try, especially as social media is much more public. Others might be experiencing the same troubles as you, too.
When All Options Are Exhausted, Get the Student Aid Ombudsman Involved
Studentaid.gov explicitly states that you must make an attempt to contact Nelnet before turning to the Student Aid Ombudsman Group. Do everything in your power to resolve the situation yourself, which will prepare you to get on the phone with the Ombudsman when the time comes.
You can also prepare by using this list provided by the Ombudsman Group to gather the necessary information for review. When you’re ready, you can call 1-877-557-2575, fax 202-275-0549, fill out the online dispute form, or write to them at the following address:
U.S. Department of Education
FSA Ombudsman Group
830 First Street, N.E., Mail Stop 5144
Washington, DC 20202-5144
If you choose any of the alternatives to filling out the form online, be sure to include all the information on that form in your correspondence. It will cut down on the back and forth while communicating with the Ombudsman Group.
Submitting a Complaint With the CFPB When You Have Private Loans
The Student Aid Ombudsman serves borrowers with federal loans, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau serves those with private student loans. Nelnet services both types of loans, so if you have private loans, you’ll want to file a complaint with the CFPB instead.
The CFPB has been getting very strict with private lenders on the matter of abuse. If you think you’ve been wronged by Nelnet, then it’s worth making the CFPB aware of it. All you need to do is go here and fill out the short student loan complaint form.
After you’ve submitted it, Nelnet will have 15 days to respond to your complaint, and the CFPB will help you and Nelnet reach a resolution. Most cases are resolved within 60 days.
Don’t Give Up
Resolving a dispute with a lender or loan servicer can be tiring, but it’s important not to give up. You have certain rights as a consumer, and loan servicers shouldn’t be trying to take advantage of you. Do what you can to get a Nelnet representative on the phone, and remember to write down names, dates, and what was discussed in the conversation in the event the representative doesn’t log it. This will help you if you need to escalate your efforts by bringing the issue to the attention of the Ombudsman Group or the CFPB.