Impact of Student Loan Servicing Errors on Credit Scores | Bill Clanton

Impact of Student Loan Servicing Errors on Credit Scores

Graduation cap filled with collection letters symbolizing student loan debt and the stress of student loan errors.


Your credit score is a critical component of your financial life, influencing your ability to secure loans, credit cards, housing, and even employment opportunities. For many individuals, student loans represent a significant portion of their debt, making the proper management and servicing of these loans crucial to maintaining a healthy credit score. Student loan servicing involves the collection and allocation of payments, communication with borrowers, and handling of various administrative tasks related to the loans. When servicing errors occur, they can have severe consequences for borrowers’ credit scores and overall financial well-being.

Clarification on Loan Types

Before diving into the specifics of servicing errors and their impact, it’s essential to understand the different types of student loans available. Federal student loans, which are funded by the government, include:

  1. Direct Subsidized Loans
  2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  3. Direct PLUS Loans
  4. Federal Perkins Loans

These loans typically offer more flexible repayment options and borrower protections compared to private student loans.

Private student loans, on the other hand, are provided by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. They often have more stringent repayment terms and fewer protections for borrowers. When considering the impact of servicing errors, it’s crucial to keep in mind that certain issues and advice may be more applicable to one type of loan than the other, as servicing practices and regulations can vary between federal and private loans.

Common Student Loan Servicing Errors

  1. Misapplication of payments: This error occurs when a loan servicer fails to allocate a borrower’s payment correctly. It can happen when payments are applied to the wrong loan, to interest instead of principal, or not at all. The consequences for borrowers can be severe, including the accrual of additional interest, the reporting of late payments to credit bureaus, and the potential for default.
  2. Incorrect reporting of loan status: Loan servicers may erroneously report loans as delinquent when they are actually in deferment or forbearance, which are periods during which borrowers are not required to make payments. Conversely, servicers may fail to report loans as current when payments are made on time. These inaccuracies can have a direct and negative impact on borrowers’ credit scores.
  3. Failure to properly process paperwork: This can include income-driven repayment plan applications (for federal loans) or loan consolidation requests. When these documents are not handled correctly, borrowers may be placed in the wrong repayment plan, charged incorrect interest rates, or experience delays in the processing of their applications.
  4. Providing inaccurate or incomplete information to borrowers: Loan servicers may misinform borrowers about their repayment options, fail to notify them of important deadlines or changes, or provide inconsistent advice. This can lead to missed opportunities for borrowers to manage their loans effectively and protect their credit scores.

Impact of Servicing Errors on Credit Scores

Credit scores are calculated using a complex algorithm that takes into account various factors, including payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, and types of credit used. Payment history, which reflects whether an individual pays their bills on time, is the most significant factor, accounting for approximately 35% of a credit score.

When student loan servicing errors occur, they can have a direct and negative impact on a borrower’s credit score:

  • Late payments reported erroneously can significantly lower a credit score, as payment history is weighted heavily in the calculation.
  • Misapplied payments can lead to increased credit utilization, as the borrower’s balance may appear higher than it actually is. This can further depress a credit score, as high credit utilization is viewed negatively by credit scoring models.
  • Inaccurate derogatory marks on credit reports, such as false reports of delinquency or default, can cause substantial damage to a borrower’s credit score. These negative items can remain on a credit report for up to seven years, making it difficult for borrowers to recover even after the servicing error has been addressed.

The consequences of a lower credit score can be far-reaching:

  1. Borrowers may face difficulty obtaining credit for major purchases, such as mortgages or car loans, or may be offered credit at higher interest rates.
  2. In some cases, a low credit score can even impact employment and housing opportunities, as employers and landlords may view it as a sign of financial irresponsibility.

Addressing Servicing Errors and Their Impact

To minimize the impact of servicing errors on credit scores, borrowers must be proactive in identifying and addressing these issues:

  1. Regularly review loan statements and payment records to catch errors early.
  2. Monitor credit reports for inaccuracies. If there is an inaccuracy on your credit report, dispute it in writing. After disputing with the servier (step 3) follow up with the bureaus. 
  3. If a servicing error is identified, dispute the error with the loan servicer in writing. Gather supporting documentation, such as payment receipts or correspondence with the servicer, to substantiate the dispute. Follow up with the servicer to ensure the error is corrected and any negative impact on the credit score is addressed.
  4. If necessary, file complaints with regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Ombudsman (for federal loans).
  5. Consider seeking legal assistance from a consumer protection attorney if servicing errors have resulted in significant damage to the credit score. They can help borrowers understand their rights and explore potential legal remedies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other relevant laws.

Preventive Measures for Borrowers

To reduce the risk of servicing errors and protect their credit scores, borrowers can take several preventive measures:

  • Maintain accurate records of all student loan communications and payments.
  • Regularly check credit reports for inaccuracies.
  • Enroll in automatic payment plans to minimize the risk of missed payments.
  • Stay informed about repayment options and rights, particularly with regard to federal loan repayment options and forgiveness programs.
  • For private loans, explore potential repayment arrangements and negotiate with the lender if necessary.


Student loan servicing errors can have a significant and lasting impact on borrowers’ credit scores, affecting their ability to access credit, secure housing, and even find employment. By understanding the different types of student loans and the potential for servicing errors, borrowers can take proactive steps to protect their credit health.

Regularly monitoring loan statements, credit reports, and communicating with loan servicers can help catch errors early and minimize their impact. When errors do occur, borrowers should dispute them promptly and seek assistance from regulatory agencies or legal professionals if necessary.

Ultimately, the key to mitigating the impact of student loan servicing errors on credit scores is vigilance and proactive management of one’s loans. By staying informed, organized, and assertive in addressing issues as they arise, borrowers can safeguard their credit and maintain a strong financial foundation for the future.

About The Author

Bill Clanton

Over the years my office has helped thousands of consumers who were cheated, ripped-off, and mistreated by debt collectors, credit reporting agencies, banks, credit unions, and car dealers. If you have a problem with a business being dishonest with you give me a call. Iā€™d love to set them straight.