IamA person who has worked in student loan debt collections for over 2 years. AMA!
I am a former employee of Student Assistance Corporation, a division of Sallie Mae. I have some time to answer your questions about the student loan industry, fair debt collection practices, and options for people struggling to repay student loans. I am no longer affiliated with the company, so I will only be able to offer my personal advice and opinions.
A few disclaimers:
During my employment, I dealt exclusively with federal student loans. This is my area of "expertise." I worked with other people who dealt with private Sallie Mae loans as well, and I have a pretty good handle on these also.
If it takes me a while to answer your question, it probably means I am checking my data. I have been out of the industry for a couple of years, and laws/practices change pretty frequently.
The experience and views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect Sallie Mae or Student Assistance Corporation.
The purpose of this AMA is to shed light on the often confusing and ambiguous nature of student loan debt and repayment options. I will not intentionally misrepresent or speak negatively of any company or name any person. Horror stories about former co-workers are fair game, though!
I think that covers everything. Ask away!
My Proof: http://imgur.com/d96ociZ Against my better judgement, I am posting part of my 2010 W-2.
Edit: Thanks for all the great questions. I am going to take a break for a bit, but I will try to answer as many as possible in the next few days, so keep them coming. Also, thanks to everyone who has provided additional insight regarding student loans!
Edit 2: Here are links to resources regarding federal student loans:
Income-Based Repayment calculator. This is the one that I always used to estimate reduced payment options. It is very fast, and is normally very accurate.
Deferment options. Depending on your situation, you may qualify to have your payments postponed. Interest does not accrue on your subsidized loans during this time.
Edit 3: Collectors who continuously harass you, disclose private information to unauthorized parties, call before 8 AM or after 9 PM, claim to be somebody else, or fail to notify you of your rights are not only being assholes, but they are breaking the law! No legitimate collections agency condones these practices, and these people should be held accountable. Know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and report them to their supervisor.
Edit 4: I'm out for now. Keep the questions coming, and I will answer as many as I can over the next few days. In the meantime, if you know of anyone who is struggling with student loan debt, let them know that there may be options in place that can help them. Good night!