Given the rising cost of tuition and the pressing need to earn a degree, student loan debt is a burden millions of borrowers carry long past their graduation date. More than $1.3 trillion is currently owed by over 40 million borrowers within the United States alone, and that number is certain to rise in coming years as more individuals pursue an undergraduate or graduate level degree.
There are a handful of ways current students and recent graduates can fund their college experience, including federal and private student loans. However, each comes with a specific set of advantages and disadvantages borrowers should understand before signing on the dotted line. Private student loans, while growing in popularity, have certain caveats that make them less appealing than federal funding for some borrowers.
Nonetheless, even though many consumers are paying off federal, private, or a combination of the two for student loan debt, not every borrower has the same portfolio of loans or the same servicer of those loans. Several different companies exist for the primary purpose of managing student loan payments and communicating important repayment details with borrowers. Firstmark Services is one of those companies.
Established in 1997, Firstmark is an operational division of Nelnet, Inc., one of the nation’s largest student loan services. Firstmark was created under the umbrella of the larger company so that Nelnet could shift its focus on building and implementing technologies and education solutions to its enterprise customers.
Firstmark uses several advanced systems and technology tools to manage student loan origination and servicing for millions of borrowers. While the company does not provide loans directly to students, it does collect monthly payments, make updates to the borrower’s loan when necessary, and report loan repayment details to the credit reporting agencies.
Firstmark Services' Customers
Although Nelnet services several million federal student loans, Firstmark Services is focused in the private student loan space. The company’s primary private student loan portfolio consists of newly originated and refinanced student loans through Citizens Bank. Other private lenders, including CitiBank, utilize Firstmark Services for its student loan servicing technology. Borrowers who have a loan originated or refinanced through a private student loan lender may instead make payments, log-in to update account information, and contact a customer service representative directly through Firstmark Services.
Borrowers who end up with Firstmark Services as their private student loan servicer have the same account management options as they would with any other student loan servicing company. Individuals have the ability to establish automatic payments on a monthly basis, and depending on the originating loan provider, may be able to change their loan repayment schedule through Firstmark. Borrowers would also request financial hardship forbearance or payment deferral through the private student loan servicer, should that be an option based on the original loan agreement and terms. Most importantly, Firstmark ensures that private student loan payments are received and processed each month in the correct amount and at the correct time.
Firstmark in the News
As a private student loan servicer for several private lenders, Firstmark Services is tasked with ensuring borrowers’ payments are credited to their account appropriately and that all requests for changes or updates to borrower account information are processed. In recent years, Firstmark has come under fire for mismanaging payments made by student loan borrowers, with some individuals citing egregious processing times that resulted in late payments or additional interest accrual.
In addition, complaints about changing due dates for loans that were transferred from a private lender to the servicer have been reported, along with misrepresenting the amount of interest accrued on a loan balance since the previous month’s payment. Some borrowers also experienced a change in their monthly payment amount once their loan balance was transferred to Firstmark, and an inability to gather accurate, up-to-date information about what is owed. Firstmark Services has been working to resolve issues with individual borrowers as they arise.
Transferring student loan information, including balance, interest rate, monthly payment, and borrower details, to a private student loan lender like Firstmark Services is not an uncommon task. Many student loan originators do not want the added burden of servicing a large portfolio of student loans, on top of providing credit underwriting and funding.
Companies like Firstmark Services exist to take these administrative requirements off the shoulders of large student loan lenders, but they are far from perfect. Borrowers should be diligent in understanding their loan terms, interest rate, and payment options before and after a loan is transferred to a servicer like Firstmark. Keeping detailed records of on-time payments and balance information is helpful should a problem arise once a loan is transferred to a private servicer.