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Updated on Monday, September 28, 2015
Have you experienced trouble making the minimum payment on your Federal student loans? If so, you might have been contacted by a so-called “student loan debt relief” company looking to “help” you out. Unfortunately, the help these companies want to offer isn’t free. The good news? You can take control of your situation yourself without having to pay a third-party company.
Irvine Web Works, Inc. is one such “student loan debt relief” company, and it operates at studentloanprocessing.us and studentloanprocessing.org. The website says the corporation is headquartered in California, while the office is located in Dallas, Texas. Interestingly, Irvine Web Works, Inc. isn’t registered in California or Texas.
Before agreeing to work with this company to lower your student loan payments, read this warning and review of how the company works.
Sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Yes, you read that right. Irvine Web Works was sued by the CFPB in 2014. It claims the company was charging illegal advance fees with “upfront enrollment fees of 1% of the balance or $250, whichever is higher.”
The company is also misleading about additional fees tacked onto payments. For example, customers are led to believe they can have $0 monthly payments, but are told to pay $39 per month toward their loans. In reality, that payment is being pocketed by Irvine Web Works.
It’s great to see the CFPB cracking down on these companies, but it’s still up to you to safeguard your student loans and educate yourself on how to lower your payments.
Services Offered by Irvine Web Works
When it comes to the services it offers struggling borrowers, Student Loan Processing has information on forgiveness programs, repayment programs, getting out of default, and consolidation.
First, Student Loan Processing urges visitors to the site to call for a “free consultation” where a representative will ask you about your student loans and determine what programs you qualify for.
Did you know you can go through this same process with your student loan servicer? You can call for free and speak with someone who can access your account and go through your options with you. Alternatively, you can go to the Repayment Estimator (a tool from the Department of Education) that will show you the repayment programs for which you are eligible.
Student Loan Processing also offers to check your loans to see if you qualify for any of the forgiveness programs available. Again, your student loan servicer can provide you with that information and help you apply if you qualify.
Consolidating federal loans is also mentioned by Student Loan Processing. It says, “Only by consolidating your federal student loans into the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program can you take full advantage of all the federal programs offered.” This isn’t entirely true. You can take advantage of many federal student loan benefits you’re entitled to as long as your loans are in good standing. Consolidation may be required for certain income-driven repayment plans, but you 100% don’t have to pay to consolidate your loans.
Student Loan Processing offers to apply on your behalf to get your loans discharged due to total and permanent disability. Instead of using their help, you can complete the application for that and get more information on how to qualify at disabilitydischarge.com.
Lastly, Student Loan Processing briefly mentions helping you get out of default. If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, there is a way out, and you don’t need the help of a company to restore your loans to good standing. We’ll cover how shortly.
How the Process Works
Student Loan Processing isn’t very transparent about how its process works. It directs visitors of the site to call a representative, though an email address is available. You can also choose to schedule an appointment on the site, or fill out a contact form to ask a question.
More than likely, once you contact a representative, you’ll be “pre-approved” for a program and have to sign paperwork and an agreement stating you’ll make a certain payment to the company every month.
How You Can Lower Your Student Loan Payments for Free
Are you interested in exploring these options? The good news is you can do all of this yourself, for free, without the help of a third party company. There’s so much information on the various repayment, forgiveness, discharge, cancelation, and consolidation programs on studentaid.ed.gov, and on ed.gov itself.
Empower yourself by learning about these programs and figuring out if you’re eligible on your own. If you’re struggling to make ends meet with your student loan payments, then you shouldn’t be paying hundreds of dollars to a company to fill out paperwork for you.
How to apply for a different repayment program: As we mentioned, the Repayment Estimator tool is very useful in seeing what programs your loans qualify for, and as you can guess by the name, it also gives you an estimate of what your monthly payments will be on that plan.
You can also just call your student loan servicer and they’ll let you know the repayment programs available to you.
Applying to change your repayment plan isn’t difficult. If you’re already on the phone with your student loan servicer, ask them to help you with the next steps. Otherwise, if you’re applying for an income-driven repayment plan (Income-Based, Income-Contingent, or Pay As You Earn), you can do so at studentloans.gov. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete the application online.
How to apply to consolidate your Federal student loans: Similar to changing your repayment plan, you can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan on studentloans.gov. It’s a five-step process and takes around 30 minutes to complete the application. Make sure consolidating is the right move for you beforehand, as you can’t reverse it.
How to get your loans out of default: Getting your student loans out of default isn’t as difficult as you might think. Applying to consolidate your loans and agreeing to repay under the Income-Based, Income-Contingent, or Pay As You Earn plans will get them out of default. Alternatively, you can go through a loan rehabilitation program where you’re required to make monthly payments based on your income for nine out of ten consecutive months. Once the rehabilitation program is complete, the default is erased from your credit history, and your loans enter repayment status and regain all Federal benefits.
How to get your loans forgiven, canceled, or discharged: Loan forgiveness programs have strict eligibility requirements that must be met. You can find out about all the available programs on studentaid.ed.gov. The two most well known programs are the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, but there are also programs out there for professionals and volunteers.
Lastly, don’t forget you can apply for forbearance or deferment if you only need a short time to recover from a financial setback. Student Loan Processing isn’t a fan of this, stating, “While your third party loan servicer will certainly put your loans into forbearance or deferment which will have you paying a substantial amount of interest on your loans…”
If you can get your loans deferred, the government will pay the interest that accrues on any subsidized loans you have (unsubsidized is still subject to interest). Under forbearance, you’re responsible for paying the interest that accrues, but the lower payments will still help you. Your loan servicer won’t automatically put you into deferment or forbearance – you must apply for it and meet certain eligibility requirements.
Do You Have to Pay Fees?
In case you skipped over the part that mentioned the CFPB is suing Irvine Web Works for charging illegal advance fees, yes, fees are associated with this third party company. There’s no mention of the exact amount charged, and there’s also no mention of the fact borrowers can apply for these programs on their own.
The only time fees are mentioned is in client testimonials:
- Gass from Iowa said, “…I was taking responsibility for my loans for a low monthly fee…”
- Frank F. from Rhode Island said, “…and the service fee is well worth it.”
- Jason G. from Arizona said, “You pay a low maintenance fee and in some cases like mine, that’s all you pay, depending on family size and income.”
- Finally, R. Reed from Tennessee said, “This program has allowed me to pay a monthly fee in order to stay in the program…”
The point is you shouldn’t have to pay any fees. If you apply by yourself and enroll in another repayment program, there’s no fee to pay to stay in it.
What to do if You Have Private Student Loans
Sadly, private student loans don’t get the same guaranteed benefits federal student loans do. Most “student loan debt relief” companies aren’t targeting those with private student loans because of this. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any options.
First, call your lender and tell them about your situation. Ask if there’s any repayment assistance it can offer you. While benefits aren’t guaranteed, many private lenders are offering forbearance and extended repayment terms to help borrowers.
If you hit a wall, consider refinancing your student loans with lenders that do offer repayment assistance. SoFi* and Earnest* are two of the leading student loan refinance companies, and they offer flexible repayment terms.
Don’t Pay Fees to Third Parties
Don’t let these third party companies convince you that you’ll be better off with their assistance. They don’t have any competitive edge over anyone else. Always direct your payment concerns to your student loan servicer. There should be information about repayment programs on their website, which means they can offer you help. The worst thing you can do is wait until your situation gets worse.
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