What is a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
Student loan wage garnishments are when someone you owe money to starts subtracting a percentage of what you owe them directly from your paychecks, rather than waiting for you to send them a payment.
They’re known as a form of involuntary student loan payments, and officially referred to as “Administrative Wage Garnishments” when talked about in legal contexts.
Typically, garnishments are only put in place after you have defaulted on your student loan debt, so unless you’re having trouble paying back your loans, you’re unlikely to ever experience a garnishment.
This 2018 Guide to Student Loan Wage Garnishments covers everything you need to know about wage garnishments, including all of the rules surrounding them, as well as how to prevent them, and get rid of them after one has been put in place against you.
Quick Links to Sub-Topics Within This Guide
To make it as easy as possible for you to find the specific content you want, below is a list of all the topic areas I’m going to cover in this Guide. Feel free to click the links to whatever sub-topic you want to know about.
- What is a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
- Wage Garnishments on Federal vs. Private Student Loans
- What Causes Wages to Get Garnished Over Student Loan Debt?
- How to Know if You’re Facing the Threat of a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
- What Are Your Rights Regarding Student Loan Wage Garnishments?
- How Much Money Can Wage Garnishments Take?
- How to Avoid a Student Loan Wage Garnishment
- How Can You Stop a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
- What are Student Loan Wage Garnishment Hearings?
- What Reasons Can You Use to Request a Wage Garnishment Hearing?
- How to Request a Student Loan Wage Garnishment Hearing
- How to Contact Your Student Loan Collections Agency
- Federal Student Loan Collections Agencies Contact Information
- Avoiding Student Loan Default Scams
- Where Can You Go For Other Student Loan Questions?
But Before We Get Into The Details…
Before we get to the details on Student Loan Wage Garnishments, let me first tell you that the fastest way to achieving real student loan debt relief is contacting an expert, and paying them for their assistance.
Why would you want to pay anyone to do something you can do yourself? Simply put, because these experts live and breathe student loans, and they are total experts at all the Forgiveness, Discharge, Cancellation, Consolidation, Refinancing and Rehabilitation programs on offer, so they can advise you about what you should do to get rid of your debt as quickly and cheaply as possible.
But there’s only one group who I trust to give advice to my readers, and that’s the Student Loan Relief Helpline. While you will need to pay for their assistance, they typically charge a few hundred dollars, and may be able to save you tens of thousands over the lifespan of your loan.
Wage Garnishments on Federal Student Loans vs. Private Loans
One quirk to student loan wage garnishments is that this is one of the only times that it’s worse to have Federal loans than Private loans, because Federal Student Loan Servicing Companies can start garnishing your wages much more easily than Private Student Loan Debt Collection Agencies.
Why? Because Federal student loan wage garnishments don’t require a legal judgment against the borrower, as they’re a simple administrative matter that can be initiated with a bit of paperwork.
When it comes to private student loan wage garnishments, they can only be initiated if the debt collection agency successfully sues you in court, and wins the case against you, and is specifically told that they can begin garnishing your wages.
What this means is that it’s much harder for the servicing companies to get a wage garnishment against you if you’ve got private debt, and like I mentioned earlier, that’s one of the only times you’ll ever see me say that it’s better to have private student loans than federal loans, because Federal loans have major advantages in essentially all other categories.
What Causes Wages to Get Garnished?
Wage garnishments are the inevitable result of Student Loan Delinquencies & Defaults, and do eventually get put in place on both Federal and Private loans when the borrower who defaulted refuses to make things right.
The way they work is that the company you owe the money to starts taking what you should be paying them (but are refusing to do) directly from your paychecks, before you receive any funds yourself.
And what this means is that you end up making far less money, and having far less control over your financial life, since you no longer get to decide how much money you want to allocate toward student debt each month.
Just so everyone’s aware of how Delinquencies and Defaults happen, Federal student loans go into Delinquency as soon as you miss a payment, but they don’t enter Default until you’ve missed a payment for 270 days.
Private student loans never go into Delinquency, but instead enter Default as soon as you miss a single payment.
What you should keep in mind is that your best option is to avoid a student loan wage garnishment before it’s initiated by refusing to allow your loans to default, or by completing a Federal Student Loan Rehabilitation as soon as possible after your Federal debt defaults
Why is that? Because it’s much easier to prevent a wage garnishment than it is to get rid of one after it’s been initiated. Trust me on that one…
How Will You Know If You’re Facing the Threat of Wage Garnishment?
One nice thing about wage garnishments can’t just appear from thin air, because student loan servicers and debt collectors are required by law to notify you at least 30 days in advance before any wages begin getting garnished.
US Law stipulates that you aren’t required to face garnishment until it’s been 30 days after you’ve received the official letter from the servicer or debt collector, which is called a “Notice of Intent to Garnish”, and which you definitely don’t want to ignore!
My advice for anyone who’s found their way to my site after receiving the Notice of Intent to Garnish? Call the Student Loan Relief Helpline now, and as them if they can help you avoid the garnishment by completing a Rehabilitation, Consolidation or Loan Modification.
What Are Your Rights Regarding Wage Garnishments?
Part of the rules regulating wage garnishments on defaulted student loans states that the Notice of Intent to Garnish letter must inform you that you have the right to:
- View your student loan records
- Ask for a hearing regarding the garnishment
- Set up a repayment plan to avoid having your wages garnished
The Notice of Intent to Garnish should also state the reasons that you can request a hearing, and you’ll need to have a legitimate claim in order to get that request approved.
If this information is not included in the Notice of Intent to Garnish letter, then you have a right to ask for a hearing, and you definitely should.
Also, I mentioned this above, but for those of you who missed it, the garnishment must not be put in place any faster than 30 days from the date that the Notice of Intent to Garnish was delivered to you.
Finally, you also have the right not to be fired, be refused employment, or to face disciplinary measures over a student loan wage garnishment, so if your debt collector of even the company that you work for starts making threats about losing your job because of the garnishment, you should make it clear to them that you know that’s completely illegal.
How Much Money Can a Wage Garnishment Take?
Wage garnishments are set differently for Federal and Private loans, and Private loans can basically be set at whatever the court or Judge who issues the judgment against you agrees to, so there’s not much oversight in that realm.
But when it comes to Federal garnishments, officially called Administrative Wage Garnishments, they’re limited to 15% of your disposable income. Fortunately, disposable income is the money you have left after paying for taxes and other mandatory charges, or what most people would refer to as your “take home pay”.
The laws on Federal Student Loan Wage Garnishments state that the government’s servicing agency or debt collector can’t leave you with less than 30 times the Federal Minimum Hourly Wage per week, so for low income earners, they may qualify for wage garnishments substantially lower than 15% of their discretionary income.
The math turns out to being about $7.25 x 30 = $217.50, which means that the wage garnishment slapped on your earnings can’t leave you with less than $217.50 in income per week.
What this means is that minimum wage earners working less than full-time are highly unlikely to face a student loan wage garnishment on their Federal loans, even if they are in default and refusing to pay up.
If you’re worried that your wages are being garnished at a level that’s too high, check out this handy Student Loan Wage Garnishment Calculator to make sure that you’re not losing more than you should be in each check. And if you do find out that someone is garnishing too much money from your checks, be sure to contact your loan servicer to request a hearing.
It’s important to remember that co-signers, including parents who are co-signers on a student loan are also subject to wage garnishments, so if you’re opting to Default on a Student Loan where you do have a co-singer, just be aware that you’re not the only one who the debt servicer or collection agency can come after.
How to Avoid a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
As soon as you become aware that you’ve got a garnishment on the way, the first thing you should do is contact whoever is trying to put that in place to ask them if you can instead set up a payment plan and prevent it from happening at all.
This is when negotiations will begin, and your servicer will probably ask you for some kind of lump sum payments to show “good faith” (prove that you’re serious about getting back into proper repayment with them), but they’re also going to want you to sign a new contract that says exactly how much you’ll pay them each month.
The key thing to think about here is that you need to prove to them that you’re serious about paying them back, because unless you can convince them that you really will pay them what they want, they’re just going to ignore you and pursue that garnishment instead (since they know that’s guaranteed funds, rather than voluntary payments that you’re promising to provide, but could back out of.)
At this point, your options are probably going to be doing some form of Student Loan Consolidation, which will almost certainly include enrolling in one of the Income-Based Student Loan Repayment Plans, or pursuing a Student Loan Rehabilitation to officially Get Your Loan Out of Delinquency or Default and back into repayment status.
Here’s a short list of things you can do to prevent anyone from garnishing your wages:
- Make your payments on time. This goes without saying. Either sign up for automatic payments (the best bet) or use something like Google Calendar to keep track of due dates, and make sure that your monthly payments are always provided in time. As long as you don’t miss any payments, nobody can garnish your wages.
- Get on an income-driven repayment plan. These offer you the best chance of lowering your monthly payments, especially if you’re a low income earner, or if you’re unemployed. Anyone who isn’t making good money should definitely enroll in one of the Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment Plans
- Deferment or Forbearance. Talk to your loan servicer about these options. Keep in mind though that a forbearance will add the accrued interest to your principal.
How Can You Stop a Student Loan Wage Garnishment?
Remember that it’s a much better idea to do one of the things above and to avoid getting a wage garnishment at all, because getting slapped with that wage garnishment is going to do two things you definitely don’t want:
- First, it’ll ruin your credit score and make it impossible for you to qualify for any of the amazing Federal student loan benefits on offer. You’ll also have trouble getting approved for loans like car loans, mortgages, etc., and you may even have trouble getting a good job or being approved to rent a nice place
- Second, voluntary payments don’t incur any collection costs, penalties, fees or fines, whereas wage garnishments can include penalties as high as 24%! If you want to keep your student loans as cheap as possible, one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that you’re paying them on time, and avoiding the sorts of penalties, fines, and fees that that come with delinquent and defaulted student loans
Now, if all that fails, and you do find out that you’ve got a garnishment on the way, don’t give up yet, because there’s still hope to stop it from going into effect.
Just before the wage garnishment has been put in place, you can attempt to prevent it by requesting a Wage Garnishment Hearing, which I’ll explain in detail below.
Remember, you will definitely want to take care of this before the garnishment starts, because once it’s in place it becomes extremely difficult to get rid of, and it’s going to cost you much more time and money to deal with than if you’d prevented it in the first place.
The most important thing to do is not to wait. As soon as you receive notice that your wages are about to be garnished, make sure that you immediately contact your loan servicer to try and work out a deal that prevents it from happening. Showing them that you’re genuinely interested in paying back the money will make your life much easier.
What Are Student Loan Wage Garnishment Hearings?
Student Loan Wage Garnishment Hearings allow you to put your impending wage garnishment on hold if you request a hearing within 15 or 30 days of having received the Notice of Intent to Garnish (depending on the type of Federal Student Loan you’ve defaulted on).
Check your Notice of Intent for details, because whoever is attempting to garnish your wages is legally required to list the number of days you have to request a hearing within the copy of that letter.
What’s the purpose of a wage garnishment hearing? They let you fight the garnishment and attempt to get it removed before anyone is able to start taking money out of your paychecks.
How are wage garnishment hearings conducted? Most of them happen over the phone, rather than in a court of law, because they go pretty quickly, and are relatively straight-forward legal processes.
If you would prefer to have an in-person hearing, they are available for Defaulted Federal Loans, but only in San Francisco, Chicago or Atlanta, and all your travel expenses and other costs will have to be paid for by you, even if you win the hearing.
Even if you think you’re going to lose the hearing though, it can be an effective way to slightly delay the initiation of wage garnishments, since it can take up to 60 days after your hearing to find out whether or not your request to rescind the garnishment has been approved.
What Reasons Can You Use To Request a Wage Garnishment Hearing?
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that you can’t request a hearing for no reason, as there are specific legal instructions around when a hearing should be held
If you do decide to request a hearing for a coming wage garnishment, I highly recommend that you use one of the following claims as your reasons for asking to have that hearing:
- You’re experiencing financial hardship. You’ll need to provide plenty of proof in order to get a hearing that on these grounds, but if you can do that, and if you win at the eventual hearing, then your wage garnishments are likely to be lowered, or completely cancelled. However, the issue will probably be revisited every 6 months or so to see if your financial circumstances have changed, so don’t think of this as a long term solution to your Student Loan Default, even if you’re currently financially destitute.
- You’ve recently filed for bankruptcy. Again, you’ll need to provide proof that you’ve filed for bankruptcy, and you’ll have to provide all the details explaining your bankruptcy, but this is a good way to prevent a garnishment from going into place (at least temporarily), as most courts won’t allow lenders to start garnishing wages until after your bankruptcy case has been settled.
- You were fired from your last job. If you’ve been at your current job for less than a year, and you can prove that your last job fired you, then you can request a wage garnishment hearing at which you’ll explain that you have only fallen behind on your student loan payments because of this change in circumstances (if you’re making more money than you were previously, then this won’t work…).
- You’re already enrolled in a repayment plan. Obviously, if you’re already enrolled in a repayment plan, and you’re following the plan by making regular monthly payments, then there isn’t any need for the lender to extract an involuntary payment from you. Sometimes there can be a mix-up, or a lender or servicing company will get greedy and try to sneak a few of these through, but if you’ve been keeping up with your payments then you definitely shouldn’t be hit with a wage garnishment, and you’ll absolutely want to request a hearing to get rid of the wage garnishment before it goes into place.
- You no longer owe the money. Perhaps you’ve already paid off the student loan already, and it’s only by accident that you’ve been alerted that a wage garnishment is coming. Alternatively, maybe you’re eligible for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness, or for a Discharge, like via the Borrower’s Defense to Repayment Program, or the Closed School Loan Discharge Program, and you’re fighting against paying the loan because you’ve already qualified for those benefits, but your servicer is dragging their feet or preventing you in some way from getting the discharge that you deserve.
How To Request a Wage Garnishment Hearing
To request a wage garnishment hearing, you have to apply for it officially by contacting your loan servicer and asking for one in writing.
This is a little unintuitive, because it’s your loan servicer or collection agency who’s trying to get the wage garnishment against you, but if you want to prevent it from going into effect, you’ll have to tell them that you want a hearing to review it’s legality as soon as you’re informed that they’re attempting to put it into place.
If you don’t know who services your loans, the easiest way to sort that out is to look at who you’re sending your monthly payments to. Whoever processes those payments is your loan servicer.
For Federal student loan debt, you can use the Federal Student Aid Website to find out who services your debt. For Private student loan debt, you’ll need to pay attention to wherever those checks are being sent, because they’re the people servicing your loans.
How To Contact Your Student Loan Collections Agency
If you need to contact your collection agency for any reason, then you’ll want to refer to the table below to find their contact information.
If you don’t know who your collection agency is, and you can’t figure that out by looking at mail notices or any other forms of communication you’ve received from them, then you can contact the Department of Education’s Default Resolution Group by sending them a letter to:
- U.S. Department of Education
- P.O. Box 5609
- Greenville, TX 75403-5609
- 1-877-825-9923 TTY
And before you start looking through the table, please note that this only includes the Federal Student Loan Collection Agencies, or the agencies that the Department of Education has official contracts with.
If you’ve got private student loans that are being collected against, then you may have a collection agency who isn’t listed here, and you’ll need to look elsewhere for assistance.
Federal Student Loan Collections Agencies Contact Information
Here’s the list of all the official student loan collection agencies approved to collect on defaulted Federal student loan debt.
If you’ve got a Federal loan, and some other agency is telling you that you need to send them money, I would highly advise that you refuse, and instead perform some research to find out if they’re a new collection agency who was recently approved by the Department of Education.
If you can’t find any official reference that says these guys are legitimate, then be careful about sending them any information or money, because there’s a pretty good chance they could be some kind of Student Loan Scammer who you will want to avoid entirely.
|Account Control Technology, Inc.|
P.O. Box 11750
Bakersfield, CA 93389-1750
|Action Financial Services|
P.O. Box 3250
Central Point, OR 97502
P.O. Box 9088
Woodridge, IL 60517
|Bass & Associates|
P.O. Box 66080
Tucson, AZ 85728-5478
P.O. Box 1460
Lowell, AR 72745-1460
|Coast Professional Inc.|
P.O. Box 2899
West Monroe, LA 71294
P.O. Box 457
Fairport, NY 14450-0457
|Credit Adjustments Inc.|
P.O. Box 5640
Manchester, NH 03108
|FH Cann & Associates|
P.O. Box 877
North Andover, MA 01845
|FMS Investment Corp.|
P.O. Box 1423
Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-1423
P.O. Box 27346
Knoxville, TN 37927
|Immediate Credit Recovery Inc.|
P.O. Box 965156
Marietta, GA 30066
|National Credit Services|
P.O. Box 766
Bothell, WA 98041-0766
|National Recoveries, Inc.|
P.O. Box 120666
St. Paul, MN 55112
|Performant Financial Corporation|
333 North Canyons Pkwy, Suite 100
Livermore, CA 94551
|Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc.|
P.O. Box 228
Arcade, NY 14009
|Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland|
P.O. Box 3725
Englewood, CO 80155
|Reliant Capital Solutions|
P.O. Box 307290
Gahanna, OH 43230
|Transworld Systems, Inc.|
507 Prudential Road
Horsham, PA 19044
|Windham Professionals, Inc.|
P.O. Box 400
East Aurora, NY 14052
Avoiding Student Loan Default Scams
Remember, there are all sorts of scammers out there trying to take advantage of people like you who are experiencing student loan debt problems, and who aren’t entirely sure what you need to do about them.
Don’t listen to them! Don’t be persuaded to provide them with any personal information! Definitely don’t give them any money!
If someone contacts you saying that they can get you out of default for a fee, just remember that it doesn’t actually cost anything to get out of default, and that any payments you provide to them could be directed to whoever you owe the debt to instead.
Most of the time, these groups are going to tell you that they’re experts, or they’re the best at debt resolution or debt negotiations, and that if you pay them for their assistance, they’ll be able to get you a better deal than you could yourself.
This may or may not be true, because it depends entirely on the how good they are at what they do, and the quality of these types of organizations varies WILDLY. Some of them are great, while others won’t actually do anything other than collecting money from you and making excuses for why they haven’t fixed your default yet.
If you do decide to pay someone for help, please listen to me when I say that the only company you should trust is the Student Loan Relief Helpline, as they’re experts at handling student loan consolidations and other debt restructuring processes to make sure you get the best deal possible.
Where Can I Go For Other Questions?
For any questions that I didn’t answer in the post above, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll try to get you a response within 24 hours.
Alternatively, if you need an answer right now, then be sure to check out some of the other pages of my site where I go through other student loan topics in detail, including offering very specific advice for all sorts of different situations for both Federal and Private student loans.
To get Help with Federal Student Loan Debt look at my pages on Federal Loan Forgiveness, the Borrower’s Defense To Repayment Discharge Program, the Closed School Loan Discharge Program, Federal Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges, Federal Student Loan Consolidation Programs, and Federal Student Loan Delinquency Help, and Federal Student Loan Default Rehabilitation.
For those of you who need Help with Private Student Loan Debt, you’ll want to head to the pages on my site covering Private Student Loan Forgiveness Programs, Private Student Loan Consolidation Options, Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharges and Private Student Loan Default Help.
You should be able to find all sorts of help from the pages linked above, but if you still need assistance, again, please post your questions in the comments section below. Do not email me or attempt to contact me on Facebook, because I won’t respond there, but I do read my comments and am happy to provide advice, so don’t be afraid to ask for it!