Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sallie Mae Helps 2 Million Customers Avoid Student Loan Default

(BUSINESS WIRE)--During the last 12 months, Sallie Mae helped more than 2 million customers resolve their past-due accounts and avoid default on $38 billion in federal and private student loans. In addition, Sallie Mae celebrated 422,000 customers as they successfully paid their student loans in full over the past year.

“If you keep in contact with the people you owe and show them that you’re making a concerted effort to live up to your responsibilities, it’s more likely they will take the time to understand your situation and work with you to develop a plan”

Sallie Mae’s college planning tools, continuous communication with customers, and loan default prevention programs are critical elements toward helping customers preserve their good credit and access lower-cost credit in the future, taxpayers save dollars on federally guaranteed student loans, and colleges retain their eligibility for federal financial aid for students.

Lee Ann and Joshua R. of Pocahontas, Ark., are examples of how Sallie Mae helps customers successfully manage their student loans. As the young couple had their first child and established a career in business, there were several occasions when they fell behind on Joshua’s student loan payments. A Sallie Mae default prevention specialist reached out, providing information and counseling on payment options that helped them stay current. Last year, they paid the remaining balance on Joshua’s student loans. The experience taught them serious life lessons about money management—lessons they will carry with them when they eventually take over the reins of the family’s third-generation furniture business. “We are nearly debt free now,” Lee Ann says. “And nothing could feel better.”

For 24-year-old Lauren J., student loans served as an invaluable stepping stone in helping her get one step closer to a career in the culinary arts. After graduating from Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, Pa., Lauren’s dream was temporarily deferred courtesy of a tough job market and a depressed local economy. Lauren was contacted by Sallie Mae, and offered a temporary repayment solution to help with her financial issues and steer her back on a successful repayment track. She has since paid off her student loans in full. Lauren’s advice for others who may find themselves facing repayment difficulties with their student loans is simple: “If you keep in contact with the people you owe and show them that you’re making a concerted effort to live up to your responsibilities, it’s more likely they will take the time to understand your situation and work with you to develop a plan,” she says.

Sallie Mae’s default prevention efforts begin before loans are even made through the tools the company offers to help families borrow responsibly and build a plan to pay for college. During college and after graduation, the company also provides students with financial literacy communications and information on payment options.

The severe and lasting impacts of loan default may include damage to the customer’s credit, job prospects, denial or loss of professional licenses, the possibility of civil litigation, and the possibility of being denied other forms of consumer credit for years to come. On federally guaranteed student loans, the Department of Education also takes remedies to recover funds through wage garnishment, the seizure of income tax refunds and federal benefit payments, or the loss of eligibility for additional federal student aid. That is why Sallie Mae continues to assist federal student loan customers even if they default to help get their account back in good standing. This extra effort helps 14 percent of defaulted federal student loan customers reestablish a clean credit report.

“By far, the best way to avoid default is to stay in regular contact with your lender. Sallie Mae has a multitude of resources and options to help our customers successfully manage their loans,” said Brianna Fears, a default prevention specialist at Sallie Mae. “We understand that the tough economy and other unforeseen circumstances can make it difficult for some of our customers and we’re prepared to help.”

Sallie Mae also offers its customers options to pay off early whenever possible by making interest payments while in school and offering programs such as Upromise that enable families to earn extra money to apply toward student loans. Vanessa H. of Long Beach, Calif., is one such customer. An alumna of University of Southern California and CSU Long Beach, now a training manager at a public accounting firm, she paid extra on her student loan whenever she could, joined Upromise, and put off buying a new car. “I saved myself thousands of dollars in interest, over six years in payments, and earned an incredible sense of achievement that I was able to set a goal and see it to the finish,” she said.

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