CFPB Complaint

AES/PHEAA – CFPB Complaint ID 3077495

Consumer Complaint Submission

Date Received: 2018-11-18T00:00:00.000

Product: Federal student loan servicing

Issue: Dealing with your lender or servicer

Consumer Consent Provided to Share Complaint: Consent provided

Consumer Complaint: I am having trouble with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness ( PSLF ) program, which is managed by XXXX XXXX. This complaint is in regards to my law school loans from when I attended XXXX University College of XXXX from XXXX – XXXX.

All the loans I borrowed for law school are direct federal loans ( see attached documentation ). I have never consolidated or refinanced my loans. I am on an income-driven repayment plan through XXXX XXXX, and have been on an income-driven repayment plan through XXXX XXXX since XXXX. Furthermore, I have continuously worked at either qualifying 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) nonprofit agencies or qualifying government agencies since XX/XX/XXXX. I have continuously made monthly qualifying payments based on my income-based repayment plan since XX/XX/XXXX. Therefore, common sense and pure mathematics dictate that I have made 51 qualifying payments toward my student loan debt since XX/XX/XXXX.

However, XXXX XXXX has, by some willful stubbornness or pure magic, calculated a different number of qualifying payments in my case. According to a letter I received from XXXX XXXX on XX/XX/XXXX, I have made exactly 13 qualifying payments toward PSLF since XX/XX/XXXX. XXXX XXXX states, in this XX/XX/XXXX letter, than I began a qualifying employment period with XXXX ( a 501c3 nonprofit organization in XXXX, XXXX ) on XX/XX/XXXX and ended my qualifying employment period with XXXX on XX/XX/XXXX. Then, inexplicably enough, XXXX notes that I made zero qualifying payments during my entire qualifying employment period with XXXX. XXXX then notes that I began a new period of qualifying employment with XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX – another 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) nonprofit in XXXX – on XX/XX/XXXX. Of special interest is the fact that XXXX XXXX notes that I made zero qualifying payments during my employment at XXXX XXXX from XX/XX/XXXX – XX/XX/XXXX, but then made 13 qualifying payments from XX/XX/XXXX – XX/XX/XXXX. How can it be that I was enrolled with the PSLF program that entire time, making monthly payments that entire time, and working for the same employer that entire time, but only made 13 qualifying payments during the eighteen months I was employed at XXXX XXXX?

Part of the confusion in all this, I believe, is that my qualifying income-driven loan repayment amount was, for a significant amount of time, XXXX dollars per month. The reason my monthly payments were XXXX dollars per month was that I was working as an XXXX XXXX volunteer at XXXX. XXXX XXXX volunteers are essentially full-time employees of the agencies where they work ( indeed, I typically worked more than 40 hours per week at XXXX ) ; however, they are considered volunteers and are therefore paid less than minimum wage. Having just graduated law school with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, I was living in XXXX and earning slightly more than {$1000.00} a month as an XXXX XXXX volunteer. Because XXXX XXXX determined that my income was so low that I couldn’t be required to pay more than XXXX dollars per month, I was paying XXXX dollars a month during this time. I had multiple phone conversations with XXXX XXXX representatives around this time, because I was concerned that my loans had accidentally been placed in forbearance. ( Unfortunately I didn’t keep records of those phone conversations because I hadn’t yet grown paranoid about the possibility that XXXX was keeping inadequate records and failing to count my qualifying payments ). XXXX XXXX assured me repeatedly that, no, my loans were not in forbearance – I was simply earning too little to pay more than XXXX dollars a month under an income-driven repayment plan. To be sure, I asked XXXX XXXX if I would still qualify for PSLF since I was technically paying XXXX dollars per month. XXXX XXXX again assured me that my XXXX dollar monthly payments would qualify : that was the amount I was required to pay, based on my income, and I was paying it monthly.

It is also important to note that, although I have changed employment somewhat frequently in the past several years, XXXX XXXX only requires its participants to certify their employment once per year. Even when I have attempted to alert XXXX XXXX immediately of a change in employment, XXXX often does not process that information until my annual employment certification date rolls around. Therefore, it is my belief that XXXX did not process my changed income until XX/XX/XXXX, nine months after I began working at XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX. Despite the delay in processing my change in employment, I was still making qualifying payments in the amount that was directed by XXXX XXXX.

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The bottom line is that I have CONTINUOUSLY worked for 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) nonprofit agencies and qualifying government agencies since XX/XX/XXXX. I have continuously been enrolled in PSLF since XX/XX/XXXX, and I have never missed a monthly payment since that time. I have been making income-driven payments towards my loans through XXXX XXXX since XX/XX/XXXX. Here is a breakdown of these employment periods : From XX/XX/XXXX – XX/XX/XXXX I worked at XXXX – 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) agency in XXXX XXXX – as a full time XXXX XXXX / XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX.

From XX/XX/XXXX – XX/XX/XXXX I worked at the XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX – 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) agency in XXXX. I was a full-time XXXX / XXXX XXXX.

From XX/XX/XXXX – present I have worked as a full-time XXXX with the XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX in XXXX XXXX.

Now, as for my efforts to alert XXXX XXXX of this mix-up and rectify what seemed to be a mistake on their end : Immediately after receiving the XX/XX/XXXX letter declaring that I had only made 13 qualifying payments, I called XXXX XXXX to complain. At that time I spoke with someone named XXXX ( Employee ID # XXXX ). This conversation occurred on XX/XX/XXXX and lasted approximately 20-30 minutes. XXXX first assured me that I was enrolled in the PSLF program and was making qualifying payments. She also told me that the letter sent to me by XXXX XXXX on XX/XX/XXXX appeared to contain mistaken records ; according to her calculations, I should have 44 qualifying payments on XX/XX/XXXX and not only 13 qualifying payments. XXXX told me she would put in a request to get some ” human eyes ” on the problem, and that it could take up to six months for such an internal review of my past payments to occur. Since that phone conversation I have followed up with several complaint emails to XXXX XXXX, imploring them to sort out this problem and count all my qualifying payments. I have received no response from XXXX XXXX, nor has anyone independently contacted me to say that they have conducted the review that XXXX ( # XXXX ) requested back on XX/XX/XXXX.

It is now XX/XX/XXXX – more than six months after this XXXX representative named XXXX assured me that she would get some ” human eyes ” on the issue. At this point, the discrepancy between my records and XXXX ‘s records is the difference between 51 qualifying payments and 13 qualifying payments. As I am required to make 120 qualifying payments before my loans can be forgiven, this discrepancy essentially means three years of my life. I deserve to know if it will take nine more years, or only six more years, before my loans are forgiven. That is a significant difference which significantly impacts my ability to plan for the future.

On a personal note, I want to say that I am the type of person who finds it rewarding to help people. I went to law school specifically because I wanted to help poor and needy Americans. XXXX school was difficult and stressful for me ; I had a hard time eating and sleeping, especially during first year, because I am a sensitive person and the cutthroat, competitive atmosphere was toxic for me. Still, I persisted because I knew that my XXXX XXXX would eventually be a powerful tool to help the underprivileged. I graduated on time in XXXX and started doing XXXX XXXX work in XXXX through XXXX. The work I did in XXXX XXXX was heartbreaking – young XXXX boys, aged XXXX, and XXXX, would come into my office to tell me how they didn’t have anyone looking after them – nobody who cared about them. They had never ventured beyond their gang-dominated neighborhoods – never even seen XXXX XXXX – because it was too dangerous. XXXX XXXX XXXX work I did made me want to have more direct involvement with these children, so in XX/XX/XXXX I made a job switch : I went to work directly with gang members on the south side of XXXX, through a nonprofit called the XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX ( XXXX ). XXXX was not an easy place to work. For the first time in my life, I felt self-conscious about being XXXX ; I questioned myself, my privilege, my culture, and my identity. I wept with the rest of our staff when a young man involved in our programs was shot and killed by a rival gang member. I sank into periods of XXXX, wondering if our after-school programs and intervention efforts were truly making a difference in the hard and sad lives of these young men. Finally, after reading the bestselling book ” XXXX XXXX ” by XXXX XXXX, I decided I wanted to help our young men at XXXX by representing them in their legal cases. This journey quickly led me to realize that I wanted to do more legal work and cut back on grant writing, which is why I moved to XXXX to work for the XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX. This work is not easy either ; the caseload is relentless, and my clients are typically ungrateful – most are mentally ill and extremely poor. But I don’t do it for the gratitude ; I do it because it is important work, because the system is already stacked against the poor and they deserve to have someone in their corner, fighting for them.

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I tell my personal story – not to waste your time or introduce sentimentalism – but to let you know how important PSLF is. It’s important that people do not lose hope in the program. There is no way that someone like me, from an average middle-class family, could bear to exist under the weight of {$300000.00} of student loans without the promise of PSLF. Lately I have been reading more and more complaints and articles online about XXXX XXXX and PSLF ; their record-keeping is terrible, and the program often misleads participants as to whether or not they qualify. This is wrong. Good, hardworking people – people who make personal and financial sacrifices by serving the poor – deserve to know that PSLF is going to come through for them. Those who do difficult, demanding, and thankless work to make America a better country deserve to know that the American government recognizes and appreciates these efforts. In a society that values money above all else, it has never been more important to recognize and acknowledge those who are driven – not by money – but by the prospect of providing support and advocacy to those who are less fortunate.

I am attaching documentation.

Company: AES/PHEAA

State/Zip: CO

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Company Response to Complaint: Closed with explanation

Was Company Response Timely: Yes

Did Consumer Dispute Company Response: N/A

Complaint ID: 3077495

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