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As the pandemic continues to cause economic chaos, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. The unemployment rate remains high, and even those lucky enough to have jobs may find their salaries reduced. One of the most significant expenses for many people is student loans, and with payments set to restart soon, borrowers are more concerned than ever. Unfortunately, loan servicers may be making things difficult for borrowers by reducing customer service hours.
Before the pandemic, borrowers could rely on their loan servicer to answer any questions they might have about their loans, including payment due dates and amounts, forbearance options, and details on interest rates. However, with the pandemic leading to widespread business closures and reduced hours, many loan servicers have had to reduce their customer service schedules. This means borrowers may now struggle to get the help they need when they need it most.
The decision to reduce customer service hours is worrying, as there is no denying that student loan debt is a major problem in the US. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe a staggering $1.7 trillion in student loans, with the average student loan borrower owing over $30,000. With such large amounts at stake, providing adequate customer service should be a priority.
One reason for the reduction in hours may be due to the CARES Act. This bill, signed into law in March 2020, provided much-needed relief for borrowers struggling to make their student loan payments during the pandemic. The act temporarily paused federal student loan payments, waived interest, and stopped collections on defaulted loans. However, the relief will soon come to an end, with payments set to resume in October 2021. Loan servicers may be reducing customer service hours to prepare for the influx of inquiries they expect to receive once payments restart.
Of course, this reduction in customer service hours could create more problems than it solves. Borrowers who are unable to get the help they need may become confused, frustrated, and even angry. They may miss payments, default on their loans, or even suffer harm to their credit scores. In the long run, these issues could affect the overall health of the student loan system, creating a more significant crisis down the line.
There are several steps that borrowers can take to mitigate the problems caused by reduced customer service hours. First, borrowers should try to be as prepared as possible. This means doing their research and understanding their student loan repayment options ahead of time. Borrowers should also make note of important deadlines and payment amounts, so they have a clear picture of their loan status.
Second, borrowers should make use of the resources that are available to them. Many loan servicers offer online resources, such as chatbots and FAQs, that can help borrowers answer simple questions without needing to speak to a customer service representative. Additionally, borrowers may be able to find helpful information on the Department of Education’s website or other reputable sources.
Third, borrowers should try to be patient and persistent. While reduced customer service hours may make it more challenging to get the help they need, borrowers should be persistent in their efforts to reach out to loan servicers. They may need to try multiple times or use different methods of communication to get through to a representative. It may also help to be polite and friendly, as representatives are more likely to be helpful if they are treated respectfully.
In conclusion, the reduction in customer service hours ahead of the restart of student loan payments is a worrying development. With so much at stake, borrowers need to have access to timely and accurate information about their student loans. While loan servicers may have their reasons for reducing their hours, borrowers should be prepared, make use of available resources, and be patient and persistent when seeking help. In this way, we can work together to ensure that the student loan system remains functional and that borrowers can manage their debts effectively.