It’s My Turn with IBR, Part 1: Figuring Out When and How to Renew IBR Eligibility

I’ve blogged extensively about the many problems with the U.S. Dept. of Education’s federal loan servicing system, particularly the issues surrounding Income Based Repayment (IBR) and borrowers being kicked off of that repayment plan when they don’t re-certify quickly enough.

Well, it’s my turn. I don’t mind admitting that I have a healthy balance of federal student loans myself (law school is expensive!), and I too am on IBR. But it’s that time of year where I have to re-certify my eligibility for IBR. Given everything I know about the horrible IBR re-certificaiton system, I thought it would be fun to incorporate my experiences into this blog to exemplify what others might be going through. I hope this turns out to be a boring story where I turn in my paperwork to my federal loan servicer and I remain on IBR with no problems. If that happens, I’ll provide an overview as to what I think I did right. On the other hand, if I have to go through some of the nightmarish experiences that I know others have been through, you’ll at least get some entertainment, I’ll get to vent, and maybe (given the widespread readership of this blog) someone will notice.

Part 1: Figuring Out When and How to Renew IBR Eligibility

Several months ago, I called my federal loan servicer to find out my one-year IBR renewal date. I was told December. I then asked if I would be notified in advance as to what paperwork to submit, and where to submit it. I was told I would receive no notification in advance. Swell. I’m feelin’ great about this already.

Fast forward to Monday of this week. It’s the end of October, so I figured it was time to confirm some details. I called my federal loan servicer again, and asked when my one-year IBR renewal date would be. I was told June. Wait, what? June? Last time, I was told December. Now I have an extra 7 months I didn’t know about?

I politely explained my confusion, and the customer service rep then spent about six or seven minutes quietly going through my file (how much is there to go through? Seriously?). Finally I’m told, “Oh, yes, it says here that you have to renew in December.” Good thing I had her double-check that, because otherwise I might have waited until June and gotten myself into some big trouble. Now, since I won’t be receiving notice or anything… “Oh, you’ll actually get notice about 45 days in advance of the renewal date.” Oh, really? Because I was told something very different the last time I called; can you tell me what exactly I’ll receive in the mail and what I have to submit? (This is funny because I’m a student loan lawyer, so I know exactly what forms they should be sending me… I’m just playing dumb so I can see if she knows what she’s talking about.) “Well, I’m not sure, but whatever relevant paperwork you’ll need will be sent to you.” And what if it’s not sent to me, what then? “Well, I’d call back in mid November if you haven’t heard from us.”

Fantastic. So my IBR renewal date is probably December (such confidence there). I either will, or won’t, get some sort of advance notice, but if I do, we’re not quite sure what that notice will look like, what forms will be sent, etc. Brilliant! We’re off to a great start.

To be continued…