9. Propose a reasonable solution. Generally, delinquent borrowers can switch to more affordable payment plans or win deferments without having to make any payments first. The government can also award retroactive forbearances or deferments to wipe away current delinquencies, though collectors may ask for evidence of a good reason, such as unemployment. The federal government allows its collectors to waive collection costs and knock as much as 10 percent off of the total debt for those who prove that's all they can afford and who make good faith efforts at repayment. Such discounts are left to the discretion of the servicer or collector, however.
[Read more tips from the collections manual]
10. Try to fix your record while you wait for a final agreement. Lenders typically urge borrowers to keep making payments during negotiations. But borrowers who can't make payments can ask for retroactive deferment or forbearance.
11. Get help. If you're having trouble with your collection agency or servicer, call the Department of Education's ombudsman. If you need outside advice, contact the National Consumer Law Center or your local legal aid office.
Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of America's Best Colleges.