Aspire Resources Inc. is one of the smaller servicers and has a bit of a complicated history. They may be your loan servicer or maybe they used to be your loan servicer. Aspire is a for-profit subsidiary of the nonprofit company Iowa Student Loan and services loans as Aspire Service Center. The company was contracted with the federal government to service loans from the Direct Loan program.
Despite what they describe as high customer satisfaction ratings as reported from their Department of Education evaluation, they could not accumulate enough accounts to warrant the cost of operating, per their 2015 statement on the matter, and ceased their Direct Loan servicing.
The Department of Education confirmed in a statement that Aspire initiated the end of the contract to service these loans. All Direct Loan accounts with Aspire were transferred to MOHELA. However, Aspire is still servicing other kinds of loans.
Despite that aforementioned high customer service rating from the Department of Education, Aspire has not been immune to complaints. We took a look at complaints posted in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau database, on the Better Business Bureau website, and other places around the web to get an idea of possible issues with Aspire loan servicing.
Here are some issues that stood out:
Phantom Student Loan Balances
Paying off your student loans can be a thrilling experience. However, the excitement can dull when you think you’ve completely paid down your debt only to discover that somehow you still owe something.
An Aspire borrower experienced this precise situation. To be sure, the amount they still owed was quite small: they paid off their loan and then later logged into their Aspire account to make sure nothing was wrong.
They found 5 dollars of unpaid interest there, somehow left over from the now-paid loan. Whatever the reason it was there, they had not been informed they still had that amount left. Had the borrower never looked, it would have sat there accumulating more interest until Aspire decided to let them know.
A similar incident occurred when one borrower paid off her loans and then reviewed her balance, surprised to find over 20 dollars still remaining. She received a bill that confirmed she owed that amount, too. After calling and inquiring about the issue, and being told the balance would be waived after a system error was corrected, the balance remained unchanged.
The balance sat there for several weeks accruing interest and the borrower kept getting billed for an even larger amount. Eventually, according to Aspire’s response, the error was fixed and the account corrected. While in the end the borrower was not on the hook for this erroneous balance, it is unnerving to watch your loan balance go up and up over a period of weeks when you had, in fact, already paid in full.
Auto-pay can be a huge boon to both borrower and servicer. For the borrower, auto-pay means they don’t have to remember each month to pay their loan, and it reduces the risk of being late with a payment. Additionally, depending on the type of loan and the servicer, borrowers may get a discount on interest rates for enrolling in an auto-pay feature. For the servicer, auto-pay is as close to a guaranteed payment as they are likely to get.
But when auto-pay goes wrong, it can be frustrating to the borrower and antithetical to the reason it’s there in the first place: easy payment process. One Aspire borrower describes in a complaint how they switched bank accounts and informed Aspire via the proper form to update their auto-pay. In the process of setting up the payments to the new bank account, that month’s payment was canceled, and the borrower was deemed to have missed a payment.
The borrower had not requested that cancelation and lost the interest rate reduction they had with Aspire at the time; the borrower felt it was unfair they were punished for a missed payment when they had not requested it.
Duplicate or Triplicate Payments
Getting overcharged on a payment is one thing. Getting your payment tripled is even worse. This happened to at least one Aspire borrower. And while the incident could have been a one-off error, it may have caused a lot of short-term distress for those affected. The borrower in question felt that Aspire’s handling of the situation left much to be desired.
The borrower logged into their checking account and saw that three loan payments had been taken out instead of one, sending them into overdraft. When the borrower called Aspire to resolve the issue, Aspire said they knew of the problem and were working to rectify it. When asked why they had not notified borrowers of the issue if they had known about it for several days, no answer was given.
The borrower also had to wait at least 5 days for the refund process to be completed. The borrower emphasized that they felt like the customer service reps did their jobs well, but the policy itself was outrageously burdensome on borrowers given that the error was made by Aspire.
Another borrower noted what might’ve been the same incident, except their account got charged double instead of triple. They also had to wait at least several days for the problem to be fixed, and while they reported being satisfied with the company’s response, it was distressing they had to go through it in the first place.
Looking For Help Beyond Your Student Loan Servicer
Dealing with a student loan servicer whose service or policies fall short of your expectations or needs is a frustrating experience. And while you will need to contact your servicer for a variety of problems like technical issues, looking beyond your servicer for help may ease some of your frustration or at least give you perspective on your experience.
One of the biggest issues people face with their servicers is getting into a payment plan that makes their monthly payments affordable. Your servicer may not be communicating with you well about all your options. Sometimes the servicer is at fault; however, the servicer may just be carrying out the inadequate policies of your lender. If you’re a borrower of private student loans and can’t work out a feasible repayment plan with your current lender, you might want to consider refinancing. While there is no guarantee of better options, another set of loan terms or even another lender might give you the options you need to stay current and successfully pay back your loans.
If you have federal loans and are having issues paying your loans, we recommend talking to Ameritech Financial at 866 863 3870. There are a number of repayment plans offered through the Department of Education and Ameritech Financial helps you find the plan right for you, assists you in applying, and if you’re accepted, they will work with you for the life of the loan to make sure you stay in the plan or program you need.
Have you ever had any of these problems with your student loan servicer?