TERI Student Loan & Debt Settlement Program

We have several TERI student loans, and are enrolled in a debt settlement program. TERI keeps calling and says it won't settle.

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

Your loan is “guaranteed” by The Education Resources Institute (TERI). It is a private student loan, as it was not guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). It is common for confusion to exist as to whether a particular student loan is a private loan or a federally insured loan. Many student loans, such as Stafford Loans, and PLUS Loans, are offered by private lenders, but are still guaranteed by the DOE. As I mentioned, yours is not.

How Settlement Programs Work

Your problem is one faced by almost every consumer who enrolls in a debt negotiation program, and one most good debt settlement firms discuss with clients upfront.

While in a settlement program, you are no longer making monthly payments to your creditors. Instead, you are saving that money in an account to be used to settle your debts; however, your enrollment in settlement program does not stop your creditors from expecting payment each month under your loan agreement. Therefore, your creditors will likely continue their collection efforts while you are saving money to settle, as TERI has already done.

The fact that collectors are calling you and making threats is par for the course for most people enrolled in a debt settlement programs. It does not mean your creditors will refuse to accept a settlement. In addition, your settlement company may be able to help reduce these phone calls by sending cease communication requests to your creditors. TERI, being an original creditor and not a third-party collector, may choose not to honor these requests, but TERI may stop calling to ensure compliance with federal and state collection laws.

I encourage you to communicate with your settlement company about these calls and how much stress they cause you. It may also be a good idea to stop answering the phone when collectors call. If you do not have the money to pay them, all these calls will do is cause you unproductive stress.

Although it does not happen to most people who enroll in debt negotiation program, your creditors may choose to pursue legal action against you for not repaying the loan as required by your original agreement. From my experience, only a relatively small percentage of debt settlement clients are sued, though almost all are threatened with lawsuits by their collectors.

Collectors often tell people they will not work with a debt settlement company. This statement is a negotiating tactic. Although a few do not under certain circumstances, the vast majority of creditors will negotiate a settlement eventually because it is in their financial interest to do so.

Student loan providers can be more difficult than other creditors when it comes to negotiating settlements, possibly because they know that their notes cannot be discharged in most bankruptcy proceedings. In fact, many debt negotiation firms will not accept student loan debt, even in cases, such as yours, when the student loans are private (i.e., not insured by the U.S. Department of Education).

I presume that since your debt negotiation firm accepted your TERI loans, it has a track record working with TERI or similar providers of private education loans. However, you may want to call the settlement company with which you have been working to ask specifically how many accounts it has settled with this creditor, what the average settlement percentage on those settlements is, and how often are clients being sued by TERI or similar private education lenders.

Hopefully, this information will help you decide whether or not you should continue the negotiation program or try to work out repayment plan with TERI on your own.

Alternatives to Settlement

If you feel strongly that the debt settlement program in which you have enrolled will not settle your TERI account, you may want to look into a couple of alternatives. Unfortunately, the alternatives available to assist you in resolving your student loan debts are fairly limited.

One option is to try to consolidate your loans into a single debt, which will hopefully charge a lower interest rate and require smaller monthly payments. However, since your loans are private, you probably will not qualify for federal consolidation programs, which may make consolidating a less attractive option. To find out more about consolidating student loans, read the Bills.com resource Student Loan Consolidation.

Another option is to consult with a bankruptcy attorney — bankruptcy usually cannot discharge student loan obligations, but if you can prove to the judge that repaying the debt is causing you an “undue hardship,” he/she may grant you a discharge. Hardship discharges are not granted frequently, so you should not peg your hopes on this option.

More About Student Loans
Need a Student Loan? Start Here!
Student Loan Consolidation
Private Student Loan Default
How to Pay Off a Student Loan
Help with Your Student Loan Debt
Settle a Private Student Loan
Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you are considering bankruptcy, I strongly encourage you to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible.

While there are options out there to help you, you may find the best thing to do is to stay in your settlement program, cross your fingers, and hope that everything works out for the best. If you want to learn more, Bills.com offers a wealth of information on various student loan related topics, available at Student Loans Information and Savings.

I wish you the best of luck in finding a solution to the difficulties you are facing with your student loans, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.




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Comments (11)

Jimmy J.
Eolia, MO  |  September 29, 2011
Thanks for giving me information on student loan consolidation programs. I really like the concept of student loan consolidation as it combines all the existing loans taken by the student for his education purpose.
Max L.
New York, NY  |  September 01, 2011
Nice post! I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.
Rach W.
Grifton, NC  |  July 05, 2011
I defaulted on two private student loans. The collection agency has offered me a settlement and I want to take it. What is my next step? Should I send them a letter agreeing to the terms or should I demand they send me one first? How long will the "settled" status remain oon my credit report? Thanks
July 05, 2011
Your safest course of action is to ask the creditor to send you a proposed settlement contract. Take that contract to a lawyer, and ask him or her to explain its terms to you, and in particular, if the contract resolves the debt it its entirety.
Stephanie L.
Lafayette, LA  |  April 27, 2011
My husband has a loan guaranteed through TERI. It was being handled by NelNet but went delinquent. The DAY it was deemed delinquent and written off I tried calling Nelnet, CoAmerica, and TERI. No one can tell me where this loan is and how I can bring it current. It is on his credit report showing a 0 balance as being paid off, but we never paid it. I has been 7 months now and to this day no one has contacted me about it and I still can't find it to pay it. Can anyone tell me who else I can try to find it. I would like to get it current and repair his credit.
April 27, 2011
Your credit score was damaged by the delinquency, and not by what you may or may not owe presently. A delinquency is like dropping a drinking glass on the floor in a bar. Your paying the bartender for the cost of the glass does not make the mess disappear. That is an inexact analogy, but my point is the same — you can make your payments current, but your missed payments created a mess (called a derogatory in the credit score trade) that will remain on your credit score for the next 7 years. The mess remains whether you pay the debt or not.

A credit report is an inexact record of your financial history. Unfortunately, if the lender (in this case TERI and/or Nelnet) has no record of who it sold your collection account to, and the collection agent that bought your account has not reported it to the consumer credit reporting agencies, then you have no way of learning who owns the rights to your collection account. I have three suggestions:
  1. Make your student loan payments to a separate savings account that you do not otherwise touch.
  2. If and when the collection agent contacts you about the debt, validate the debt.
  3. If the collection agent validates the debt, negotiate a settlement of the debt. Use your savings in the separate account I just mentioned and offer the collection agent a lump-sum settlement.

Regarding your credit score, it takes one slip to damage it and years to repair that damage. See the Bills.com resource Improve Your Credit Score to learn what steps you can take to improve your credit score.

January 21, 2010
Was the amount borrowed a private student loan? If so, then help your son complete the forbearance form and verify that the form is completed fully and accurately. Send Bank of America the completed form via certified mail. If Bank of America loses the complete form again, then keep resending it until it lands in the correct place. Bank of America is under no obligation to renegotiate the balance due. However, if you can put together a lump-sum of $18,000 then there is no harm in offering a settlement.
Vicki B.
January 20, 2010
I talked my husband in to co-signing for my sons private school loan with Bank Of America in 1994. Now they started harrassing my son because he just started a full time job and hasn't been able to keep up the payments. Now they are harrasing us and my husband is now retired. My son has tried to put it in forebarence. They send him the papers he sends them back and still nothing happens. It started out as a 15,000 loan but is now 24,000. If we were able to do a pay off do you think they would settle for 18,000 to 20,000 and knock off some off the interest? Everytime we call them it's like no one ever knows what there doing. One says they can but it in forbarence then we get a call and they say no. I am so fed up with them!
December 29, 2009
If you are expecting to return to school in January 2010 and do not have your financial aid settled now in late December 2009, I think it will be a challenge for you to register for class. Be that as it may or may not be, accept the plan the creditor presented and apply for another student loan. Do what you can to get a federal student loan. Federal student loans are forgiven if the student dies or becomes disabled, which is not the case for private student loans. Go to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Web site to start the application process now.
Evelyn .
December 29, 2009
hello, i have a couple of questions. One my father and i took out a TERI loan for, I am the Co-Borrower. When i started paying the loan back i was doing ok every month everything was fine. Then i had to leave my jod due to the fact that i was diagnosed with 2 herniated discs. I have no sort of income and i haven't payed anything towards the loan neither has my father. The collectors are harassing and i explained the situation to them and now they want me to start paying $86 a month for 6 months them after that, it will go up to $220 a month. I wanted to know if i wanted to start school in january will i be able to get financial aid through my mother? She is the one taking care of my brothers and I. i dont know how to go about this and stressed out at the fact that i may not get financial aid to go back to school.
Lipin P.
Aberdeen, OH  |  June 17, 2013
I appreciate all important delegates who are behind this program! As we all know the future of the nation is in the shoulder of pour youth! They have to undergo lots of financial struggles to complete their education! A settlement program for their loans is something that helps them a lot!
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