Servicing problems abound with student loan debts, particularly federal loans. But they seem to be particularly common in connection with Navient. The company represents 64% of all student loan complaints received by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although they handle only about 25% of all student loan debts.
What are the common Navient servicing problems, and how do you avoid them? They seem to be too numerous and comprehensive to categorize easily. Misapplied payments, inaccurate information, credit reporting issues, interest rate increases and fees mysteriously added – the list is endless. And that makes dealing with them almost impossible.
That's certainly not the news you want to hear, but it seems to be the reality with this student loan servicing giant.
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Based in Wilmington, Delaware, Navient is one of the leading providers of asset management and business processing solutions for education, healthcare, and government clients. But what the company is best known for is student loan servicing. In that category they're the largest in the country.
The company was formed in 2014, when the former Student Loan Marketing Association, better known as Sallie Mae, split into two entities – Sallie Mae Bank and Navient. Navient manages almost $300 billion in student loans for more than 12 million borrowers, representing approximately 25% of all student loans in the United States.
The company services both student and parent federal loans for the US Department of Education, as well as a large portfolio of private student loans. They report that their federal loan customers default at a rate 31% less than the national average.
The company attributes the lower default rate a “critical theme”: contact. They use “data-driven strategies to increase customer contact and specially trained teams to engage with struggling borrowers”.
But is that the experience of their customers – the student loan debtors?
The list of complaints against Navient is long, and even includes several lawsuits. The most common complaint listed with the Better Business Bureau are billing and collection issues (1,248 out of 1,691 complaints filed).
“It seems that I have been paying off a student loan for many years. The current amount owed is close to the original loan amount. I requested from Matt full documentation with payment history and interest calculations to ensure that the complete loan is legit. This loan has changed hands so many times without my consent and against my wishes. I am wondering of the legitimacy of this loan and calculations. Once the company declined to give me this information, I asked for a manager. I was refused this multiple times and was told that they will not escalate my request.”
Navient's response: “Thank you for your message. In the interest of protecting the privacy of our customers, the Office of the Customer Advocate responded directly to the customer via US Postal Service on July 5, 2018. Please allow sufficient time for postal delivery.”
“I have a consolidation loan with Navient. About 2 years ago I noticed that there was an increase in the amount of money that applied to interest for payments between April to September of 2004. Based on their calculation on interested accrual they applied about $220 dollars towards interested payments that should have gone towards principle. I have talked with multiple agents that have come to the conclusion that the amount of interest taken out of the payment is more than what should have been taken out, since this is a fixed rate loan. They have sent it to some mysterious back room with my issue and my requests for them to give me an explanation or recalculate the loan with the proper payments. Neither of these requests has been addressed.”
Identical Navient response as the complaint above.
And one more…
“I tried to apply for an in school deferement and their website provided no option for this, and sent me through an endless loop where I kept having to login to receive the forms, but the forms were no available once I logged in.”
Once again, same standard response from Navient.
ConsumerAffairs.com reports 634 Navient complaints and reviews and gives the company an overall rating of one star out of five.
“This company replaced Sallie Mae so I had no say in choosing it. This company has the worst business ethics that I've ever dealt with. They are constantly changing the set pay amount, you look and all of a sudden you have a late notice. While no indication, notification or reason of why/when the change is happening. Lack of communication and unethical business practices run rampant. My suggestion to anyone would be to avoid Navient at all cost!!”
“I've been with Navient, before they became Navient when they were Sallie Mae. Lately this year I've had nothing but problems with my loan and bad customer service with this loan company…unfortunately I have low income and cannot survive and make the original payments of 215.00 payments. So I was accepted into the rate reduction program and set up auto payment and haven't missed a payment. Fast forwarding to May of 2018 I called in to do my financial so that I could continue on this rate program. I was advised it wasn't available at this time, and that to call back at the end of June when my program was done to set it back up. I called back after my “last payment in the rate program.”
Several lawsuits are pending against the company.
In January, 2017, it was announced that Navient is being sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an official agency of the US Government.
The lawsuit charges Navient with “failing borrowers at every stage of repayment”, and “cheating borrowers out of repayment rights through shortcuts and deception”.
Among the charges in the lawsuit are:
- Failing to correctly apply or allocate borrower payments to their accounts.
- Steering struggling borrowers toward paying more than they have to on loans.
- Obscuring information consumers needed to maintain their lower payments.
- Deceiving private student loan borrowers about requirements to release their cosigner from their loan.
- Harming the credit of disabled borrowers, including severely injured veterans.
The case is still pending, amid recent charges the Department of Education is blocking access to documentation from Navient needed by the CFPB in the prosecution of the suit.
Navient is also being sued by several states attorneys general, including California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the company is also facing a class action lawsuit on many of the same grounds.
One of the complications with student loans is that the company servicing your loan typically isn't the agency that made you the loan in the first place. What's more, there are four different potential student loan servicing agencies. This includes Navient, Nelnet, FedLoan, and Great Lakes Higher Education.
What further complicates the situation with Navient is that they service both federal and private (bank) student loans. Consumers are often unsure which they have.
If you're not sure, start by checking the Federal Student Aid site, using your FSA ID. Investigate the details of the loan, including the current servicer. That will tell you if it's Navient or one of the other servicers. If no record of your loan appears on the FSA website, the loan is private.
If that's the case, pull up your latest loan statement and find the servicer that way. It could turn out you have both federal and private student loans, both serviced by Navient.
Should You Change Student Loan Servicers?
Even if you're not satisfied with Navient changing student loan servicers may not be the answer to your problem. First, the other the servicing agencies have their own problems, and may be no better than Navient.
Second, you can't simply change servicers. In order to do that, you'll have to do either a refinance of your current loans with a different lender, or do a student loan debt consolidation. Either will set up a new loan, which may switch you to a different server. But you may very well end up with Navient once again, which would defeat the purpose.
Just as important, you have to be careful in doing a refinance. For example, if you refinance federal loans into private loans, you'll be giving up the ability to participate in income based repayment plans and debt forgiveness options unique to federal loans.
Contact Customer Service
Navient customer contact depends on where your student loans originated. There is a different contact number for each loan type. Phone contact is provided, though email is available for the Military Benefits team.
FFELP and HEAL Loans: 888-272-5543, Monday through Thursday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Fridays, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Loans through the US Department of Education (Direct Loan or FFELP): 800-722-1300, Monday through Thursday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Fridays, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Private Loans: 888-272-5543, Monday through Thursday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Fridays, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Military Benefits Team: 855-284-4879, Monday through Thursday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Fridays, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. Or call 888-272-5543 if you are living abroad. Email: [email protected]
If you do contact Navient by phone, be sure to get any positions or agreements confirmed by email. You may need a written chain of correspondence to make any case necessary.