CornerStone is one of the smaller federal student loan servicers contracted by the Department of Education. Boasting 35 years in the industry, CornerStone is the servicing arm of the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA), a state government agency and part of the Utah System of Higher Education.
UHEAA, as well as CornerStone, claims their vision is to “provide the best student loan experience anywhere” and proudly lists their guiding principles on their About page: integrity, diligence, customer focus, collaboration, knowledge, self-discipline, and resourcefulness.
They say their mission is to guide families through the process of financing higher education. UHEAA’s Repay Centsibly program offers students and schools financial aid literacy, assistance with loan repayment, and help preventing default.
Top Problems With Cornerstone Student Loan Servicing
CornerStone sounds like a company that cares for their borrowers and really wants them to succeed financially. They even have a selection of games to teach financial literacy.
On Facebook, CornerStone claims to “take the guess work out of repayment.” But their borrowers tell a different story. Here are the three top three complaints they mentioned about them on the CFPB and Better Business Bureau.
1. ACS Transfer Mishaps
ACS is a student loan servicer that lost their credibility several years ago. After the Department of Education decided to transfer all Direct Loans serviced by ACS to other servicers, many went to CornerStone.
Unfortunately, too many of those transferred accounts arrived incomplete, resulting in borrowers discovering that their income-driven repayment plans, deferment status, auto-payments, or even interest rates did not make it through the transfer.
After noticing a higher interest rate after the transfer to CornerStone, one borrower started a personal campaign to fix it. Over a dozen phone calls and 9 months later, her loans still had the higher interest rate. See if you could lower your student loan interest rate by refinancing.
In another instance, a borrower received a letter saying that her loans were being transferred to CornerStone but that nothing would change, including her auto-payments. After one payment was smaller than the normal amount taken from her account, the auto-payments stopped completely.
2. Lack of Communication
Nothing is worse than needing help with a time-sensitive problem and being unable to reach those who should be able to help. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many CornerStone borrowers experience when something doesn’t go quite right with their student loans.
Take this borrower: After two failed attempts to make a payment online, they tried multiple avenues of communication to resolve the issue to not miss their due date. All failed, and as a result, their credit suffered. The only communication they received before they resorted to filing a complaint with Better Business Bureau (BBB) was a letter notifying them of the failed payment.
In a similar case, one borrower’s payments consistently sat in pending status before being returned to them. As a result, they kept getting late fees that they were expected to pay off with payments that never went through. When they called in, they could never reach anyone. As they sat writing their complaint, they had been sitting on hold for close to 40 minutes.
3. Issues Despite Communication
When borrowers are lucky enough to talk to a representative, they don’t leave the conversation feeling lucky. Instead, they develop a deep distrust of CornerStone when, in too many cases, their requests never get completed. Many borrowers compare their experience to other servicers, who have no problem processing the same request in a timely manner.
Income-based repayment plans require annual recertification or the account switches back to the Standard plan, which can be catastrophic for borrowers who rely on the lower IBR payments. One borrower sent off identical recertification paperwork to their two servicers at the same time. While one was prompt with processing, CornerStone was not.
Instead, they initiated a back and forth to get the information they claimed was missing from the original packet the borrower sent, changing their story about what information they had at any given time. Information they had midway through the process was somehow missing by the end.
Another borrower had trouble submitting an application for a hardship deferment. They faxed and emailed the form to CornerStone four times, but they were still unable to process it. When they weren’t claiming they did not receive the form, CornerStone said they didn't have all necessary information to process it. But they didn't tell the borrower what was missing.
4. Wrong School Enrollment Status
One borrower complained that in-school deferment was not applied despite CornerStone’s assurances that it would be and that further communication from the borrower wasn't necessary.
Normally, the school sends the servicer notice that the borrower is in school. But CornerStone claims to have never received that notice and continued to bill the borrower, even threatening late fees if they did not pay — all while they were currently enrolled in school. Here's a direct quote from the complaint.
I have never experienced such poor service and communication from other loan companies and would like to file a complaint to help ensure that the public is aware of such practices and so that other students will not have to suffer the same difficulties I am currently experiencing.
What everyone should take from these stories is motivation to be proactive. Delays and communication breakdowns don’t happen to everyone. But they are always a possibility so it’s best to come to the table prepared.
When you need to deal with your servicer, do so early and often. And be sure to document everything.
How to Contact Cornerstone Customer Service
You can reach out to Cornerstone customer service through the following:
Phone number: (800) 663-1662 or (844) 255-8326 for servicemembers
Hours of operation: 6-7 Mon-Thurs and 6-5 on Fri (MT)
General mailing address:
CornerStone Education Loan Services
P.O. Box 145122
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5122
Address for sending payments:
U.S. Department of Education
PO Box 979133
St. Louis, MO 63197-9000
Email/online contact form:
General email address: email@example.com
Email address for servicemembers: Servicemembers@mycornerstoneloan.org
If you're not getting satisfaction from Cornerstone customer service or you're not quite sure where to start or what to do, consider hiring a CFA to help you with your student loans.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.