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Updated on Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Student Aid Center, Inc. is based in Florida and its mission is to help student loan borrowers file documentation with the Department of Education. It also helps place borrowers struggling to make payments in the federal student loan program for which they qualify. It focuses on loan forgiveness, consolidation, and income-based repayment plans. Unfortunately, this company charges fees for its services when you can do what it’s offering to do for free.
It has three websites: studentaidcenter.net, studentaidcenter.org, and studentloanforgivenessplans.org. Student Aid Center is listed as being in Miami, FL, whereas Student Loan Forgiveness Plans is in Doral, FL. The address Student Aid Center, Inc. is registered with is Doral.
If that’s not enough to question the legitimacy of this company, a complaint has been filed against it from the Minnesota Attorney General.
Huge Warning From the Government
If you look at Student Aid Center, Inc.’s profile on the BBB, you’ll see an alert there for the business. The Minnesota Attorney General filed a complaint against the business in July 2015 with allegations that it’s extremely insincere in its offerings.
The complaint states, “Student Aid Center, a Florida corporation, ‘baits’ and entices borrowers to speak with its sales agents – who it calls ‘student loan forgiveness counselors’ – by promising to help get student loans ‘forgiven’. The company then uses a variety of misleading sales pitches to get students to pay it as much as $1,500.”
There are several other complaints about fees being charged on top of the monthly student loan payments as well, and these fees have been north of $500. There’s no reason to pay anything for these services.
Services Offered by Student Aid Center
Studentaidcenter.net/.org wants to help college graduates fill out the documentation required by the Department of Education. There isn’t much information on its site, as its mission statement doesn’t speak to the services it provides. The disclosure only says it’s not affiliated with the government.
On the other hand, Student Loan Forgiveness Plans says it wants to help borrowers qualify for the different types of Federal student loan programs available while helping them fill out the required paperwork. It offers student loan consolidation, loan forgiveness, and income-based repayment services. It’s essentially a “one stop shop” for anyone struggling to make their minimum student loan payments.
How the Process Works
Studentaidcenter.net/.org doesn’t give you much information at all as to how its process works. It doesn’t even tell you what paperwork it helps you fill out – it only mentions that it’s for the Department of Education.
There’s a contact form you can fill out, an email address and phone number listed, and a live chat feature.
Student Loan Forgiveness Plans has a FAQ section, but it only talks about the programs offered by the Department of Education (and you can get all of this information for free on studentaid.ed.gov).
You can fill out a contact form or call them – there’s no email listed, and no chat feature.
You Can Make Your Student Loan Payments More Manageable for Free – Here’s How
Since neither website gives you a good idea of what exactly it can do for you, it’s better to figure it out on your own. Plus, it’s free! Here are the different options you might be interested in:
Student loan consolidation: Consolidating your student loans might not be the best solution for you. It’s a good solution if you have several different payments due at different times during the month and you’re struggling to keep up, but your interest rate won’t decrease by much. This is because the interest rate on a consolidated loan is the weighted average of the loans involved in the consolidation rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of 1 percent. However, repayment terms can be extended, so you may end up with a more affordable payment.
Interested? All you have to do is fill out the application here – it takes approximately 30 minutes, has 5 steps, and is completely free.
Income-driven repayment plans: If you’re having difficulty affording the minimum monthly payment on your student loans, an income-based repayment plan can help. There are quite a few available and you can find out which ones you qualify for by using the Repayment Estimator offered by the Department of Education.
Once you take a look at that, call up your student loan servicer and ask them which plan they think is best for your situation. Don’t be afraid to talk with them and let them know you’re having trouble paying. You need to communicate with them, otherwise you risk your loans becoming delinquent or default.
Again, you can speak with your loan servicer for free, and they can place you on a different repayment plan for free as well.
Student loan forgiveness programs: Loan forgiveness is a little tricky to navigate as there are a lot of requirements that need to be met to get your loans forgiven. Become familiar with all the ways you can get your loans forgiven and then contact your student loan servicer to discuss the programs for which you are eligible.
Deferment and Forbearance: If you’re temporarily in a rough financial situation, deferment and forbearance might be better solutions, as you won’t have to make payments on your loans for a certain amount of time. You can apply for either through your account on your loan servicer’s website, or you can call.
Getting out of default: This isn’t one of the services Student Loan Forgiveness Plans markets directly, but other “student debt relief” programs may try to sell you on it. It’s important to know you can work your way out of default by yourself (for free).
You can consolidate your loans under one of three income-driven repayment plans, or you can enter into a loan rehabilitation program where you make nine out of ten consecutive and affordable monthly payments. Once you’ve completed the program, your loan enters repayment status again and the default is erased from your credit history.
Whichever path you choose to take, continue making your monthly payments as usual until you’re told otherwise. Being in talks with your loan servicer doesn’t exempt you from making your scheduled payments.
Are There Fees?
Under the Disclosures on studentaidcenter.net/.org, it says, “Student Aid Center charges a fee to prepare all pertinent paperwork through the Department of Education on behalf of our clients.” It then lists why it charges a fee, but it does not give the exact amount a user will incur. It does go on to say that if a customer drops out of its program, they’ll receive 100% of their money back.
Student Loan Forgiveness Plans doesn’t mention fees on its website at all, but it clearly charges fees given the complaints on the BBB website.
Level of Transparency Offered
Student Aid Center makes it very clear it’s a document processing company and that it’s not affiliated in any way with the Department of Education. It states it charges fees, why it charges fees, and lets potential customers know they can go ahead and do everything themselves for free. It’s transparent except for the fact it doesn’t tell you what the fees are, or what paperwork it helps you fill out. There’s no mention of student loan consolidation or loan forgiveness programs.
Student Loan Forgiveness Plans has a disclaimer at the bottom of the site that states borrowers can process paperwork on their own.
It also has “As reported on: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Forbes” on its page, but it links to the FAQ section rather than proof that these news outlets have actually reported on it.
Additionally, a banner at the bottom of the site says the company has been helping people become debt free since 2003. The corporation has only been registered since 2013.
Have Private Student Loans?
If you have private student loans along with federal student loans (or just private student loans), these repayment options might not apply to you. Private student loans aren’t guaranteed to have repayment assistance, but many private lenders are expanding their programs to accommodate borrowers.
It’s worth taking the time to call your lender to ask what help it can give you. If there’s nothing it can do, consider refinancing with a lender such as Earnest or SoFi, as they both offer flexible repayment solutions and assistance.
Don’t Pay for What You Can do Yourself
Bottom line: there’s no reason to pay loads of fees for a third party company to complete paperwork on your behalf or to “qualify” you for a program. You’re capable of filling out the paperwork and checking your eligibility. Your student loan servicer should also explain which options are available to you. Don’t waste what little money you might have in hopes of a magical solution with your student loans, because there isn’t one. It just takes a little work on your part to get your student loan payments to a manageable level.