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Private Student Loan Lenders Play a Waiting Game

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While nearly all Department of Education staffers are home cooling their heels and waiting to return to work, private lenders of student loans are beginning to plan for a government shutdown of unknown duration, when furloughed federal workers with student loans face the prospect of missing their first paychecks and, potentially, a loan payment.

These lenders also seemed to be playing it close to the vest when it came to specific responses and are looking to see how the situation pans out. Sallie Mae, the largest private student loan lender, seemed to be betting on a short shutdown as its emphasized its willingness to do fixes of a limited duration.

"There are a number of options already available to assist individuals experiencing short-term financial difficulty with their student loan payments, including income-based repayment on federal loans," said Sallie Mae spokesperson Nikki Lavoie. "As always, we work with our customers one-on-one to understand the nature of their financial circumstances and identify the best option for them." Income-based repayments are not available to people with Sallie Mae loans--although they are for federally guaranteed loans FFELP loans Sallie Mae services. FFELP loans were eliminated in 2010 by the Health Care Education and Reconciliation Act.

"Sallie Mae's student loan servicing remains available, as normal, during the government closure," Lavoie said. "Our call center hours remain the same, and our website is processing payments 24/7."

Wells Fargo, one of the last of the bank lenders along with JP Morgan Chase and PNC Bank, took an anything-goes approach. "We understand that the uncertainty regarding the government shutdown may make this a stressful time for our customers," said Jason Vasquez, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo Consumer Lending. "There are too many unknowns right now to know the full impact of the government shutdown and we will work with any customers experiencing impacts on a case-by-case basis and encourage customers with questions to contact us."

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