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The Secret Student Loan Appeal Process the DOE Hasn’t Told You About

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Amid congressional in-fighting over large scale federal student debt discharge and reform, it turns out that the Education Department already has an existing system for investigating complaints and making fixes — it just keeps it incredibly quiet.

Of the onslaught of complaints filed against loan servicers holding government contracts, one type of complaint reigns supreme in its frequency: Thousands of people say they were misled by loan servicers working on the U.S. government’s behalf.

People who work in public service and have file for discharge have experienced a rejection rate that is nearly 99 percent.

This has caused lawmakers, consumer advocates and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) applicants to cry that the Education Department should create a formal process to appeal those denials; especially rejections that borrowers say were affected by mistakes made by their federally appointed loan servicers.

The most breathtaking revelation is that system already exists- and no one seems to know.

Few people are aware of the Education Department’s Ombudsman Group, but they should.

The Ombudsman Group is a last resort when all other efforts to resolve a student loan dispute have been exhausted.

This informal, neutral body is dedicated to helping borrowers resolve disputes related to their federal loans. These include Perkins Loans and Direct Loans. All interactions between student borrowers and the Ombudsman Group are confidential.

As a third party, they neither advocate for you nor defend the loan servicer. They review without bias to determine an equitable situation for both parties.

After you contact them and are assigned a representative, they will research your problem and review any supporting information you can provide.

When contacting the Ombudsman Office, be ready to:
  • Identify the problem and the reason behind it

  • Define expectations

  • Describe actions already taken to resolve the problem

  • Supply Documentation to support your position

It is crucial that you have your own independent archive of complete documentation of your payments, records, correspondence with your servicer, emails sent and received and any other information related to your student loans.

Next, he or she will help you and your lender to find common ground and identify solutions to the issue. Finally, your representative will work with you to find an agreement or, if necessary, refer you to the appropriate office or organization to get the help you need.

If your servicer is found to be at fault through negligence or misrepresentation, your loans can even be forgiven.


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