Navient has announced that it will no longer service federal student loans, leaving around 6 million borrowers waiting to be matched with a new lender.
The company was one of the largest servicers for the U.S. Department of Education and its massive $1.7 trillion outstanding student loan portfolio. Some 44 million Americans are in debt from their education.
Two other lenders have ended their relationship with the government this year: The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, also known as FedLoan, and Granite State.
With those three companies exiting, around 16 million federal student loan borrowers will be assigned a new servicer, according to higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
“Problems can occur with any transition, so there are a few things borrowers should do now if their servicer will be changing,” Kantrowitz said.
As soon as possible, log into your current loan servicer’s website and save or print a copy of your loan information, Kantrowitz said. Having this record can make sure that your loan information is accurate after it’s transferred to a new servicer.
“Get a list of all your loans, including your payment history, current loan balances, interest rates and monthly loan payment amount,” he said.
Double-check that your servicer also has your current contact information, so that you receive all the notices about the upcoming change.
The government’s payment pause and interest waiver for federal student loan borrowers, which has been in effect since March 2020, is scheduled to end come February.
If you’re still unemployed or dealing with another financial hardship because of the pandemic, you’ll have options. You can request an economic hardship or unemployment deferment.
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If you don’t qualify for either, you can use a forbearance to continue suspending your bills. But keep in mind that interest will rack up and your balance will be larger (sometimes much larger) when you resume paying.
If you expect your struggles to stick around for some time, it may make sense to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. These programs aim to make borrowers’ payments more affordable by capping their monthly bills at a percentage of their discretionary income and forgiving any of their remaining debt after 20 years or 25 years.