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Student Loans

How to File a Student Loan Complaint

Many options are available to file a complaint about your student loans. Student loan complaints are fairly common, with a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report showing it handled 8,407 student loan complaints during the 12 months ending September 2022—59% more than the prior year.

We’ll share how to file a complaint on federal and private student loans.

In this guide:

Reasons to file a student loan complaint

Common reasons you might need to file a student loan complaint include the following:

  • Your lender incorrectly applied your payment. 
  • You were incorrectly charged a late fee. 
  • Your loan was improperly placed in default.
  • You believe the balance on your student loan is incorrect.
  • You were treated unfairly by a financial aid office or private lender. 
  • You were treated unfairly by your student loan servicer or a collection agency.
  • You’re the victim of theft, fraud, or a scam involving your student loan. 

You shouldn’t file a complaint for a negative outcome on your loan (e.g., you have to pay a late penalty or your loan application is denied) as long as your lender, loan servicer, or financial aid office handled the issue properly. 

For example, a private lender denying your student loan application because you didn’t meet the minimum credit score requirements doesn’t constitute abuse or unfair treatment. However, if you suspect your lender unfairly denied your application based on characteristics such as your race or sex, file a complaint.

As another example, if you made your payment late and the lender charged a late fee, you shouldn’t file a complaint. However, if your payment was on time and you have documentary support proving it, but your lender assesses a fee (and refuses to waive it when you bring it to attention), file a complaint.

How to file a student loan complaint

What you’ll do to file a student loan complaint depends on the type of student loan and the issue you need to resolve. First, try to resolve the issue with your loan servicer or lender. If those first efforts fail, you can escalate the issues to the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office or CFPB student loan ombudsman.

After working with your loan servicer or lender, you’ll file most federal student loan complaints with the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group of the U.S. Department of Education and most private student loan complaints with the CFPB

If you’re a victim of federal student loan fraud or abuse, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Hotline. Report other student loan fraud or scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

You can determine the type of student loan you have by contacting your student loan servicer or reviewing your loan documents and billing statements. You can also determine whether you have a federal student loan by logging in to your FSA account, which will list all your federal loans.

How to file a complaint about federal student loans

If you have an issue with your federal student loans, contact your loan servicer first. You should be able to file a complaint with your servicer over the phone, online, and even by mail. Once you’ve tried to work it out with your loan servicer, the next step is to contact the FSA.

To file a complaint with the FSA, you’ll visit the FSA complaint website, where you can log in to your account with your FSA ID or file the complaint without logging in. Providing your account information to the FSA will yield a quicker response. 

Before you file your complaint with your loan servicer or the FSA, ensure you have a detailed description of your problem and any supporting documentation on hand (e.g., proof of payment, dates of phone calls, notes from discussions with customer service, or correspondence copies). 

How to file a complaint about private student loans

To file a complaint about private student loans, first try to resolve the issue with your private lender. If it can’t help, escalate the matter to the CFPB for additional assistance. 

Before you start the complaint process with your private lender or the CFPB, ensure you can clearly describe the issue and have supporting documentation available. For example, be prepared to offer proof of payment and your notes from previous discussions. 

Once you have the documentation ready, the first step is to contact your private student loan lender. Most lenders allow you to file complaints over the phone, online, and in writing. 

If you can’t reach a solution, you may escalate your private student loan complaint to the CFPB. You’ll file the complaint on the CFPB’s complaint website, where you’ll be prompted to log in or create an account with your name or email. Be prepared to describe your complaint and provide support.

Possible outcomes of student loan complaints 

The most common possible outcomes of student loan complaints are: 

  • The issue is resolved to your satisfaction after determining the complaint was correct. In this case, you get what you wanted; for example, your payment is reapplied. 
  • The issue is resolved, but you don’t get what you hoped. In this case, you and the lender reach a middle ground to resolve the issue. For example, your lender agrees to waive part of a fee because both parties are at fault.
  • The issue is resolved because it’s determined the complaint was incorrect. In this case, the research shows the lender or loan servicer made no mistake, so there’s no error to correct; for example, the late payment fee your lender charged was accurate.

The type of follow-up you’ll get and when depends on which agency you filed the complaint with and its internal procedures. For example, you can expect an email acknowledging any complaints you file online. 

Ask for details about the next steps in submitting complaints, so you know what to expect. The time it takes to resolve a complaint will depend on the issue’s complexity, how much information you shared, and the research involved.

The FSA says complaints filed using your FSA ID are addressed faster than those a borrower files without logging in because research takes longer. According to the CFPB, most companies respond to filed complaints in about 15 days.

What if I’m unhappy with the response to my student loan complaint?

Suppose you’re dissatisfied with the answer to a student loan complaint you filed with your loan servicer or lender. In that case, you can escalate the issue to the FSA Ombudsman Group (federal student loans) or the CFPB (private student loans). 

These two student loan ombudsman offices of the U.S. government are available to help you resolve issues with your student loans to your satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need assistance.