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Is American Student Assistance Really Who They Claim to Be?

“Dear Steve,

Thank you for the information you give. I wish I had found your site in 2004, before they made it impossible to discharge student loans through bankruptcy.

One set of my student loans has been in unemployment deferment. It is set to come off of that on 5/16. I finally was able to get a part time job, so I will hopefully be able to afford the payments. I still owe almost $32000 on that set of student loans which was consolidated at a fixed 3.2% interest rate and are the federally backed student loans. They are currently serviced through ACS. Since getting the student loans, I have gotten married and changed my name. I have recieved automated calls from American Student Assistance in the past couple of days. They say they are not telemarketing and they need to speak with me about some information they sent me. I haven’t received any information, but if I didn’t recognize the company, I wouldn’t have even opened it. There have been too many companies wanting a piece of the pie, and I ignore most of them now. They also used my old last name, which tells me they have nothing to do with the current servicing of my loans because I have changed my name with ACS and Mohela.

I don’t know how they got my number, but they leave a number wanting me to call them back. I looked up their website, and it says they are non-profit and neutral and offer solutions. That website is www.asa.org. I’m pretty suspicious. I don’t want to jump into something bad and make a situation worse, just because we are desperate.

We already cashed in our retirements, when we were both unemployed, and before I found you, and are trying to rebuild that. Our health insurance is also expensive. For this reason, income based repayment is bad for us, because we make quite a bit, but a lot of it is allocated before we ever see a pay check. Our payments would actually be higher.

Are you familiar with American Student Assistance? Do they actually offer real solutions to student loan debt, or do they just want to buy what I have so they can collect too?
Thank you for what you do to help others. I look forward to reading your e-mail every day.

Keri”

Don’t miss our free Get Out of Debt – “How To” Guide Series on a number of topics, for loads of practical advice, tips, and help to beat back debt. – Click Here

The Answer

Dear Keri,

Is American Student Assistance Really Who They Claim to Be? In 2013 a plethora of student loan assistance companies have sprung up and claim to be able to offer you a magic solution to your student loans.

The reality is they are all trying to sell you something and few, if any, are trying to sell fair financial advice.

I did a search on the IRS website and I was unable to locate any current nonprofit organization under the name American Student Assistance. They might only be a state nonprofit group with less reporting and transparency.

It would be worth asking them for some clarity on their nonprofit status. Their website isn’t much help. All it says is “American Student Assistance is a private nonprofit.” – Source

The State of Massachusetts lists American Student Assistance Services, Inc as a for-profit company that was registered in 1989. – Source

American Student Assistance Services Corporation is a nonprofit group that was formed in 1992 in Massachusetts. – Source

And according to State of Massachusetts records the company actually merged with American Student Assistance Corporation on June 30, 1996 and the new name of the nonprofit company now is really Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corporation. – Source

What is even more interesting is that the officers of the nonprofit Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corporation are listed as:

President – Paul Combe
Treasurer – Barbara Matez
Clerk – J. Christopher Sheehan
Director – Randall Behm
Director – Stephen Bilken
Director – Jean Eddy

The officers of the for-profit American Student Assistance Services, Inc. are:

President – Paul Combe
Treasurer – Barbara Matez
Secretary – J. Christopher Sheehan
CFO – Barbara Matez
Director – Stephen Bilken

By no means am I saying I have any knowledge of them doing anything improper. As an IRS approved charity the close relationship between the two groups would most likely get a second look to see if the individuals were personally benefiting from the non-profit company.

But since the only company registered in Massachusetts and discoverable by their website is American Student Assistance Services, Inc. and they are a for-profit company I certainly struggle to see how they can say “American Student Assistance is a private nonprofit.”

In fact the domain they use for their “non-profit” site is registered to American Student Assistance at 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 1600, Boston, MA 02114. This happens to be the exact same address for the for profit corporation.

I’m just saying it’s an odd puzzle that needs clarification.

It sure sounds like you are being telemarketed to. Maybe they bought a mailing list from someone else. Its not likely you requested information recently from them under your old name. So your contact information logically came from an outside source. They can’t tell you where?

Before you leap to make any decision with any company, I would suggest you first read The Ultimate Guide to Dealing With Student Loans You Can’t Afford and become familiar with prioritizing your debt and what you can do yourself for free.

And thanks for being a loyal reader!

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Big Hug!

Is American Student Assistance Really Who They Claim to Be?
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • betsy514

    Hi there! My name is Betsy and I work for American Student Assistance. I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to just clarify a couple things about our organization and hopefully help your reader. Our organizations name is Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corporation (MHEAC). We do business as American Student Assistance as we assist consumers not just in Massachusetts but nationally. MHEAC has been in business for 57 years and is indeed a non-profit. Many years ago we had several subsidiary corporations with similar sounding names that performed certain functions for us, a very typical practice. However, those corporations are no longer active, although the names may appear in various corporate filings.

    We were likely contacting your reader as the guarantor of his federal student loan. Part of a guarantor’s role is to try and assist federal student loan borrowers with their loans if they need it. We do not charge for this service and never will. We will also not share his information with any other entity not directly related to his federal student loans and as required under federal regulations. We will not sell his information to anyone. When we reach out as a guarantor, we are doing so on behalf of the federal Department of Education (to be clear we are not a federal organization but a private non-profit) so if you or your reader wanted to verify our role, you could contact the federal student loan ombudsman. We’d love to assist your reader with any questions he may have regarding his federal student loans but also want to make sure he is comfortable doing so. Please let us know if you have any questions or would like further clarification. We can also be reached at [email protected]

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Thank you so much for the feedback and update.

      • betsy514

        No problem! It’s just as important to us that consumers are confident in who they work with – especially when it comes to something like this. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond.

  • Keri

    Thank you for the advice!

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