Know whose advice you’re taking.

Let’s face it: The sheer numbers and dollars associated with student loans attract the attention of everyone from legitimately concerned financial professionals—like our agency members—to the moderately unscrupulous and outright scam artists.

Whether you are a recent graduate still enjoying your six-month grace period on repayment, an enrolled student or a borrower struggling to make your monthly payments, these five tips can help you separate the good advice from the bad.

  1. Be suspicious of upfront fees. Lenders don’t charge upfront fees, nor do counselors. Also, understand that there are no “special relationships” that lead to “negotiated” interest rates or payments. Rates can be minimized through a well-researched selection of programs, including loan consolidation when allowed.
  1. Student debt is rarely discharged. There are a few rare avenues for eliminating debt, but they are unavailable to most borrowers. This is why offers to eliminate your debt for a fee should be treated with great skepticism.
  1. Consolidation can help but not always. The Federal Direct Consolidation Program allows student loan consolidation that can lead to lower payments and possibly a lower interest rate. But, the resulting consolidation remains a government loan. When a firm offers consolidation into a private loan, be wary. It’s rare that a private loan would offer better terms than a government loan.
  1. A loan in default cannot be fixed for a fee. If you are dealing with a default, call your lender or contact a certified financial professional to facilitate the discussion with your lender. Someone cannot simply intervene on your behalf and fix things for you. And, you should be especially concerned if someone ask for money upfront to do what you can technically do yourself for free.
  1. Follow the money. As with most matters involving your money, verify before you trust. Research any company you are thinking about contacting, our member agencies included. Look for complaints on Yelp.com, with the Better Business Bureau and through general online searches. Also, make sure you understand how the agency or company offering its assistance pays for its own operation.

When it comes to student loans, it’s not a case of “you get what you pay for.” It’s about getting advice from experienced and preferably certified specialists with a deep understanding of the student loan programs. Often, that advice is free.

Who is the NFCC?

Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is the nation's first and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving people's financial well-being.

NFCC members help millions of consumers like you through community-based offices located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Each NFCC member agency has earned our seal by adhering to high standards and ethical practices designed to help you achieve financial stability.

Funding for operations and services comes from an ever-changing combination of federal, state and local government grants, as well as donations from financial industry participants and private donors.

For more on the NFCC, visit www.NFCC.org

Thank you to our funders.

The Sharpen Your Financial Focus program is an initiative of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) in partnership with a broad cross-section of supporters. Together, we are committed to increasing the financial well-being of Americans. This initiative is partially funded by Bank of America, Chase, Synchrony, Wells Fargo and other major financial institutions. We thank all funders and partners who make this program possible. For more information, visit www.SharpenToday.org.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling
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Suite 505
Washington, DC 20036

For NFCC Media Inquiries:
Bruce McClary
Vice President of Communications
Email: bmcclary@nfcc.org