MOHELA Student Loan Review: What You Should Know
Have you recently graduated from college? The summer can seem like the perfect opportunity to relax and de-stress — after all, you spent four years (or more) working hard in school. However, if you have MOHELA student loans, it’s time to start preparing for repayment.
Your grace period is typically six months — and that time can quickly fly by. Having the answer to “Who is my student loan servicer?” and knowing how to navigate your payments is a solid way to start.
There are 10 federal loan servicers, including the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri, also known as the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority or MOHELA.
If you have a MOHELA student loan, here’s what you need to know:
MOHELA has been around for nearly 40 years. The company is headquartered in St. Louis with approximately 530 employees, and also operates in Columbia, Mo., and Washington, D.C.
MOHELA services loans under the direct loan and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs. If MOHELA is your federal student loan servicer, you’ll make payments directly to it. You can contact its customer service team to ask questions or discuss repayment options.
The Department of Education announced in August 2020 that MOHELA’s federal loan servicing contract was extended through 2022. It’s unclear, however, if MOHELA will join the Department’s new federal loan servicers for the long haul.
The company also services private student loans.
It’s a good idea to set up your online account before your grace period ends. Registering for an account will allow you to see your loan balance and make payments electronically.
Go to MOHELA’s homepage and click “Create an Account.” You’ll need to enter your Social Security number, date of birth and last name. You’ll then be asked to create a username and password.
Once you create your account, you can log in to make payments or check your loan balance.
If you prefer to check your student loans on the go, MOHELA has iOS and Android apps. You can make payments or upload necessary forms via your smartphone.
MOHELA allows you to make payments in several ways:
- Sign up for automatic payments: Reduce the risk of missing payments by signing up for auto-debit. You may receive a 0.25% interest rate reduction.
- Make payments by phone: You can make payments anytime, day or night, via MOHELA’s automated phone line at 888-866-4352.
- Mail a check or money order: Before sending a payment, contact customer service to find out where to send it. The mailing address varies depending on your account information.
- Make one-time payments at MOHELA.com: If you want to make a regular payment — or a lump-sum extra payment after a windfall — you can do so on its website.
- Use your bank’s bill pay service: Check with your financial institution or a bill pay service provider to see if you can pay your MOHELA student loans bill that way.
How MOHELA applies payments
Your MOHELA student loans accrue interest based on your total balance and the amount of time between payments. When you make a payment, the loan servicer first applies the money toward any outstanding fees, then accrued interest. The rest of your payment goes toward the principal.
For borrowers with multiple loans, MOHELA applies your payment proportionately across all loans, unless you note otherwise. If you’d like to target a specific loan, you can select the specific loan online or make a request via phone or mail.
If you want to pay off your loans faster, you’ll have to let MOHELA know. The default setting is to advance your next payment due date.
If you want to make the extra payment without reducing your next bill, you can submit special payment instructions online or communicate with customer service — there are additional instructions on the MOHELA site if you want a special set-up for all your future payments.
If you’re unable to keep up with your student loan payments, the lender offers several options to reduce or postpone your payments.
Your federal student loans under MOHELA are likely eligible for income-driven repayment plans, which cap your payments at a percentage of your discretionary income, among other relief options.
Loan payback assistance
For federal loans, MOHELA offers adjusted repayment terms and income-driven plans. Each plan has different requirements but can provide major benefits, ranging from paying less interest on your loans to loan forgiveness.
Plans based on length of repayment include:
Plans based on income include:
- Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE)
- Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
- Income-based repayment (IBR)
- Income-contingent repayment (ICR)
- Income-sensitive repayment
If none of these work for you, MOHELA encourages you to call the company at 888-866-4352 to discuss other options.
If you’re dealing with a temporary financial hardship, such as an illness or unemployment, you might qualify for a deferment or forbearance for your federal loans. With these options, you can stop making payments for a set period without damaging your credit report.
A deferment allows you to postpone payments on your loans temporarily. During this period, subsidized loans will not accrue interest. MOHELA offers the following types of deferments:
- In-school deferment
- Graduate fellowship deferment
- Unemployment deferment
- Economic hardship deferment
- Military deferment
- Cancer treatment deferment
- Rehabilitation training deferment
- Parent PLUS borrower deferment
The type of deferment you seek will affect how long it lasts. For example, unemployment and economic hardship deferment are for up to three years.
MOHELA advises that forbearance should only be requested as a last resort. If you do need it, it also allows you to postpone loan payments temporarily. During this time, you’re responsible for interest on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
Mandatory forbearances are granted to eligible borrowers for the following reasons:
- Medical or dental internship or residency forbearance
- Student loan debt burden forbearance
- National service forbearance
- Teacher loan forgiveness forbearance
- Department of Defense loan repayment program forbearance
- National Guard forbearance
- Natural disaster forbearance
As with deferments, the length of your forbearance depends on the type you’re seeking. For example, you can get natural disaster forbearance for up to three months.
What about options for private student loans serviced by MOHELA?
If you have private student loans serviced by MOHELA, understand that your repayment options will be more limited. Income-driven repayment, for example, is almost never a possibility for private loans. Still, that’s not to say that MOHELA-serviced private debt doesn’t come with some advantages.
For SoFi customers, for example, MOHELA has a cosigner release program, autopay rate reduction and variety of deferment and forbearance choices, including:
|● Returning to school
● Disability rehabilitation training
● Economic hardship
● Military service
● Economic hardship
● Military mobilization
● Natural disaster
● National emergency (i.e. COVID-19)
Unlike with federal loans, private loans don’t all have the same eligibility requirements for relief. If you’re worried about affording your repayment, contact your lender or MOHELA directly to discuss your options.
If you have questions or issues with your MOHELA student loans, you can call the customer service line at 888-866-4352 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Friday. The phone line has an automated system, so you’ll need to know your loan account number or Social Security number to continue.
MOHELA has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but only one out of five stars from customers. Some of the complaints include difficulty getting in touch with customer service representatives and a confusing process for paying off loans early.
For its part, MOHELA wasn’t among the complained-about servicers highlighted in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau student loan ombudsman’s most recent annual report.
If you contact customer service but are not satisfied with their response, you can escalate your problem to a MOHELA student loan ombudsman by submitting a request online. A student loan ombudsman is a neutral third party who works with you and the servicer to reach a resolution.
Once you submit a formal request, the ombudsman will research the issue and contact you for more information as needed.
When it comes to managing your student loans, putting them off or ignoring them during or after your grace period is one of the worst things you can do.
By taking action now and coming up with a plan ahead of time for your MOHELA student loans, you can ensure you’re on track with your repayment.