Published on: people are facing uncertainty about PSLF for all kinds of reasons.  We’ve focused on those who were told they were in the PSLF program only to find out that their loan types didn’t qualify all along, and now they have to start all over.  We also help borrowers who were in the wrong payment plan and their servicer should have known that that plan did not qualify for PSLF.  Congress even set up a TE-PSLF program to temporarily waive those in the wrong payment plan provided their payment was at least as much as it would have been under IDR.

We now see two other issues popping up with more frequency.  Those encouraged to go on forbearance when they should have been on an income driven plan at a low or even zero payment which would have qualified for PSLF.

One other issue that a potential client is facing is having her PSLF certification under review now for years.

Published on: can you trust your student loan servicer when they don’t follow the law 61% of the time per a recent Inspector General’s Report?

Let’s look at a relatively simple chore – re-certification of income under an income driven plan.  What appears to be simple, can have meaningful impact.  If nothing has changed, you likely can do it yourself – but do yourself a big favor and keep reading just in case.  Here is a brief explanation of what we do to re-certify the borrower’s income to remain in an Income Driven Plan (IDR) for federal student loans:

When we are asked to re-certify an IDR plan, we ask that the borrower advise of their marital status, income of each spouse, # and circumstances of dependents, amount and type of federal loans, and lastly whether the borrower is working or intends to work public service.  There are times that nothing has changed from the borrower’s prior circumstances the previous year and we likely would simply submit their tax return to renew.  We would need to obtain a signed authorization form and often follow up with the servicer(s).  We are often re-explaining how the forgiveness works, the 1099 expectation, impact on their credit, ability to qualify for a mortgage one day.

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2019-Florida-Median-Income-BankruptcyThe new median income figures are out this week.  Whether you are above or below these figures is not the only factor that is looked at however.  But many of the expenses allowable under the Means Test have increased and if you were borderline last year, you may qualify for a Chapter 7 now.  Or have a lower plan payment in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Florida single wage earner – $49,172.

Family of two – $60,400

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170x170bbA bankruptcy attorney colleague, Don Golden, has started a new Podcast, The Fresh Start for Life, and has graciously had me on as one of his first guests.

Tune in to listen to our chat where we talk about options to pay off student loan debt.  Links for Itunes, Spotify, Google and Sticher at the end of this post.

Student Loan Debt-Know Your Options with Christie Arkovich

Published on: regularly ask for hardship letters from our clients in our student loan and other debt settlement cases.

One of our clients began his letter “Dear Student Loan Sharks”….  I took that part out, but if you read his letter, you would be very saddened by what has happened to him.  Out of a family of nine siblings, he was the only one to go to college.

However, his bright future was cut short when he went to I.A.D.T., which was acquired by Sanford-Brown, both of which were shut down.  His credits and degree are worthless.  Employers don’t recognize these degrees and schooling.  These schools told him he could make 90k in his field a few years after graduation.  They showed him charts and graphs.  Upon graduation, he made less than he did serving tables before college.  Now with a mountain of debt.  Federal and private loans.

Published on: last client of the day yesterday had this to say:  “Navient misled me by having me place my loans on forbearance and deferment rather than on an income driven plan, and also kept me on non-qualifying loans for loan forgiveness for public service.  Had they guided me through this process correctly rather than misled me, I would have had my loans already forgiven because I am on my 13th year with the federal government”.

Instead this client is having to start all over again.  He only owed $20,486 upon graduation in 1994  in seven loans.  He’s been paying what he could for many years.  Now he owes $42,000 — in 2018.  He’ll never see any forgiveness (administratively) because he now makes too much money and has a huge monthly student loan payment.

How is allowed to happen?  This is nothing short of a national tragedy that so many of our public service workers are being denied the student loan relief that they were counting on!

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debt-incomeDebt is to be used sparingly.  It allows you to make purchases which you cannot afford.  In other words, debt allows people to live beyond their means or to spend more than they earn.  While this may appear to be a good thing when an emergency arises, there are serious side effects.  These side effects include 1) paying more for an item than what it’s worth in the form of interest; 2) possible inability to pay off the debt; 3) added pressure and stress which can lead to medical and relationship problems; and 4) being a “slave” to your debt.

While some debt will always be necessary such as a home loan, usually a car loan, and a reasonable amount of student loans, it’s important to only take on a modest amount of debt and have a plan for repayment.  Just because a lender wants to loan you money is not a good reason to take it.  Many college students took out excess student loans to pay for all kinds of stuff.  Unnecessary stuff.  With private loans in excess of 10% interest, that $5 latte easily turns into a $10 latte after a few years!

One client this week advised that she had incurred over 200k for a two year AA degree over a long period of time.  She’s had a difficult life, and had to retake many courses and change degrees/schools etc.  That’s perhaps one of the worst places to find yourself.  She cannot afford to return to school, and has almost no education to show for that debt.

Published on: folks who have filed applications for Borrower Defense to Repayment seeking to discharge their federal student loans due to fraud by the school, are running into problems with their servicers sending bills that payments are now due — even though the application is still pending and the loans should be in forbearance until the review is complete.

I believe this is due to the understaffing of the BDTR department by the Department of Education as they put the program on hold and are now in the process of re-writing it under Secretary DeVos.  Regardless of how that all comes out, you can call the DOE BDTR hotline for help with your forbearance.  They will call your servicer and push back the loan due to the forbearance.  That hotline is (855) 279-6207.

For borrowers nearing retirement, that is 2-3 more years closer to retirement (where less income will allow for a much smaller Income Driven Payment).

Published on:’s extremely important when consolidating federal loans that you do not add any Parent Plus loans to the consolidation of your own loans.  It will taint the new loan and disallow many favorable options.

Here’s an excellent example from a current client (Cecelia) who came to see us before she did anything — just to make sure what she was doing was correct.  Can’t express how valuable that decision turned out to be.

By keeping a very small Parent plus loan of $3,000 apart from all of her other loans totaling in the low six figures, this client is estimated to have an IBR payment of $191 starting in approximately 90 days.  Had she not come to see us for advice first and consolidated all of her loans (as her servicer would have had her do), her loans would only be eligible for ICR and a payment of $1600.

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foreclosureIn a recent case, Harbin v. Roundpoint Mortgage Co., No. 18-11713 (11th Cir. Dec. 17, 2018), the Eleventh Circuit confronted a situation where a borrower applied for a loan modification and was told that the foreclosure sale was “temporarily postponed.”  This borrower decided not to file bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure when she was told this by her mortgage company.  Who wouldn’t?  When the sale went through anyway, she sued.  The appellate court held that the borrower “reasonably could have believed . . . that the foreclosure had been ‘suspended temporarily'” and that the statement was ‘material’ because it was the key to [the borrower’s] decision whether to file for bankruptcy before the June 3 sale.”

Beware out there – consult with a foreclosure defense attorney or a bankruptcy attorney to make sure you know what’s going on with your home if it is in foreclosure — and the various options on how to keep your home.

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