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Important Message from Iowa Student Loan, and Its Subsidiary Aspire Resources Inc. d/b/a Aspire Servicing Center, About Ongoing Support and COVID-19


Updates

Sept. 2, 2020

Borrower Assistance

Borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program federal loans or private loans who become or continue to be affected by COVID-19 may have options to begin or continue suspended payments through Dec. 31. Borrowers are encouraged to proactively reach out to us regarding available relief options to suspend required payments, prevent negative credit reporting and, ultimately, prevent default. Alternative repayment options may also be available.

Aug. 5, 2020

Our employees are still working remotely in their homes to perform their job duties, which includes the servicing and collection of student loans. Through this virtual office arrangement, we have been fully staffed and able to serve our customers' needs timely and seamlessly. With telephonic and system monitoring, we can ensure our employees continue to comply with all the state licensing regulations as though they were working in the actual office.

In our previous updates, we have noted our intent to phase our employees back to the office. Our board of directors, senior management team and our human resources staff continually monitor the federal, state and local public health emergency declarations to ensure we are operating in a safe and successful environment. We still practice social distancing and take every precautionary step necessary to avoid the risk of exposure and to comply with voluntary or mandated quarantines as our state is still under a state mandated health emergency proclamation.

While our goal was to phase back to in-office operations as soon as reasonable, we have had to re-evaluate our plans for two reasons: (1) Iowa is seeing a daily increase of positive cases and has been declared a hot spot in several states and (2) the need to reduce expenditures to remain successfully operating as a result of the current environment. By allowing our employees to continue to perform their duties remotely in their virtual offices, we are safeguarding our employees' health to ensure uninterrupted service on behalf of our partners and customers and to allow our corporation to reduce the need for extra cleaning supplies and rigorous cleaning routines, reconfiguring seating charts to social distance, and other expenses that result from having our employees back in the office. Because of these conditions, we are extending our current practice of virtual offices for our employees until at least February 2021.

June 11, 2020

The latest updates from Iowa Student Loan and Aspire Resources Inc. d/b/a Aspire Servicing Center are below.

Staffing Status

While we continue to perform daily operations on a remote basis with a full staff, we are evaluating a timeline to bring employees back into the office. Certain staff will return to the office beginning in July to prepare for the upcoming academic year and application processing. Additional staff will return on a phased approach that will allow us to protect employee health and continue to provide uninterrupted service.

Borrower Assistance

Assistance continues to be available to borrowers who have been affected by the pandemic. We encourage those who are not able to make required payments to reach out to us about available relief options, whether or not they have already used disaster forbearance to delay payments due to COVID-19.

Assistance can help borrowers by preventing negative credit reporting and, ultimately, default.

Updated information about relief options is available on our public website.


May 8, 2020

Iowa Student Loan and Aspire Resources Inc. d/b/a Aspire Servicing Center continue to offer assistance to our borrowers as they deal with the effects of COVID-19.

Staffing Status

We continue to be fully staffed and to perform all daily operations on a remote basis. This effort has been very successful, and while we anticipate phasing back to in-office operations eventually, we do not have a definite timeline for such an action at this time. We want to safeguard our employees' health to ensure uninterrupted service on behalf of our partners.

Locally, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has extended the state public health emergency declaration until May 27 but has loosened social distancing measures in 77 of Iowa's counties. This reopening does not apply to our offices, which are not located in one of those counties. We plan to continue remote operations until restrictions have been eased in our county.

Borrower Assistance

Borrowers who are or have been affected by COVID-19 are encouraged to proactively reach out to us regarding available relief options to suspend required payments, prevent negative credit reporting and, ultimately, prevent default.

If borrowers continue to experience hardship after an initial assistance period ends, they should contact us about additional assistance available through Sept. 30. Alternative repayment options may also be available. Updated information about these options is available on our public website.


April 15, 2020

We continue to evaluate and promote the available options for borrowers whose health, income and livelihood are affected by COVID-19. Iowa Student Loan and Aspire Resources Inc. d/b/a Aspire Servicing Center have worked closely with the lenders that own loans we service to implement the following.

Forbearance or Suspension of Payments

All federal and private student loans are eligible for a postponement of required payments for up to 90 days through disaster forbearance. This 90-day disaster forbearance has been automatically placed on many of the federal loans we service.

Borrowers can request at any time to cancel the forbearance. Borrowers can verbally request an extension of the forbearance if needed; it will be granted in additional 30-day increments.

Late Fees and Other Charges

Late fees are charged at a lender level. The majority of lenders whose loans we service don't charge any fees regardless of COVID-19. Iowa Student Loan does not charge any late fees on the loans we own.

Credit Reporting

FFEL: Credit reporting has remained unchanged for Federal Family Education Loan Program loans; loans are reported as delinquent at day 60 to the national consumer reporting agencies.

Private: Beginning with the April cycle, we will begin reporting to the national consumer reporting agencies delinquent loans at day 60 to match FFEL reporting. Prior to April, delinquent reporting began at day 30. This change in delinquency reporting will remain through the national emergency and will be evaluated to determine when we will revert back to a 30-day delinquency period. Note: This is contingent upon any state mandates or federal requirements and can change as a result.

Collection Activities

FFEL: Calls and letters continue on delinquent FFEL loans to meet federal due diligence requirements.

Private: Calls and letters continue on delinquent private loans in states that haven't mandated a cease collection order. We have ceased filing defaulted loan lawsuits and have dismissed any filed immediately following the national emergency declaration in all states.

Borrower Communication

For both FFEL and private loans, we are proactively reaching out to borrowers who are delinquent to let them know about the assistance options available.

  • Email – Email outreach notifies borrowers that assistance is available if they are impacted by COVID-19.
  • Letters – All delinquency letters contain information about COVID-19 assistance.
  • Phone – Special messaging for requesting assistance and an opt-in to receive text messages related to COVID-19 are in place.
  • Website – Current information about our response and a self-service option for requesting assistance related to COVID-19 is available along with a Q&A section to assist borrowers with their common questions.

Other Benefits or Flexibilities

Federal: Requirements are outlined by the federal government; no other benefits or flexibilities exist at this time.

Private: We offer graduated repayment plans for borrowers that need lower initial payments. Forbearance is available to borrowers who encounter economic hardship. In addition, we offer special temporary repayment plans for struggling private loan borrowers, wherein we may help with monthly interest charges.

We continue to work diligently to meet our customers' needs during the pandemic. For additional information and assistance, please contact:

  • Jen Hempel (jhempel@studentloan.org) for regulatory questions.
  • Your school or lender liaison for college financial aid or lender questions.

April 2, 2020

All Iowa Student Loan/Aspire Resources Inc. Services Still Available

Iowa Student Loan and its wholly owned subsidiary Aspire Resources Inc., d/b/a Aspire Servicing Center, have implemented a pandemic plan that supports our business continuity preparations. Our staff remains fully functional to provide assistance, whether related to the national health emergency or other ongoing business concerns, to borrowers and our clients and partners.

The majority of our employees are working remotely to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. These employees use our secure Virtual Private Network and have been trained to ensure they adhere to our policies governing information security when working off site. We limit the number of employees who need to be on site to process mail or payments or otherwise use facilities to no more than 10 at a time. Alternatives for these functions have been secured in case of a need to shut down our buildings completely.

Assistance Available for Impacted Borrowers

The federal government provided limited education funding relief as part of the national Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. However, this relief applies to federally held student loans. We exclusively service private student loans and privately held Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, which are not eligible for the recently approved federal relief.

However, we have implemented assistance options and other relief measures that help our borrowers who are impacted by the national health emergency. A self-service option for requesting assistance and current information about our response is available to borrowers on our servicing website, www.AspireServicingCenter.com. A notice has also been included for applicants and borrowers on the home page of www.IowaStudentLoan.org. Additionally, our phone system provides borrowers who choose to contact us by telephone special messaging and options for those impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

Options for Borrowers with Federally Guaranteed Loans Owned by Iowa Student Loan

Government-guaranteed loans (sometimes referred to as FFELP loans) have federal government-approved assistance available to borrowers, including hardship and disaster forbearances, though the recently enacted six-month deferment and interest waiver does not apply to borrowers of these loans. We are limited in any additional assistance we can provide by the U.S. Department of Education and the loan guarantors, who define what can be done while still maintaining the loan guaranties and who take ownership of the loans when the borrowers default.

We are supporting efforts that have asked the U.S. Department of Education and the guarantors to provide more assistance to FFELP borrowers, whether through administrative action or congressional action if necessary.

New Assistance for Private Student Loan Borrowers

Disaster Forbearance: Impacted borrowers may request to delay required payments for 90 days. Interest accrues but is not added to the loan balance (capitalized) at the end of the forbearance. This assistance is extendable by 30 days if circumstances warrant. This is similar to options available for FFELP borrowers.

Proactive Outreach: We will be proactively reaching out to borrowers who are delinquent to let them know about the assistance we have available for them.

Additionally, we have stopped initiating any new legal action related to defaulted private loans. However, as noted above, we are actively reaching out to these borrowers to make them aware of the assistance we have available.

Unique and Ongoing Assistance Available to Iowa Student Loan Borrowers

Existing Terms: We offer lower-than-market interest rates on private loans when supplemental funds are needed to fill funding gaps.

Available Assistance: We offer graduated repayment plans for borrowers that need lower initial payments. Forbearance is available to borrowers who encounter economic hardship. In addition, we offer special temporary repayment plans for struggling private loan borrowers, wherein we may help with monthly interest charges. Iowa Student Loan does not charge late fees on any of the loans that it owns.

We are committed to supporting our customers and partners during this challenging time. For additional information or assistance, please contact:

  • Jen Hempel, Compliance Director for regulatory questions.
  • Your school and lender liaison for college financial aid and lender questions.

March 20, 2020

We want to update you on additional actions taken in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following our business continuity plan, all borrowers and partners have had uninterrupted services and we continue to remain fully functional.

The following actions have been taken to transition most employees to remote work locations (i.e., their home):

  • Employees working remotely are using our secure Virtual Private Network, and those employees needing hardware have been provided with surplus company monitors, hard drives, keyboards and mice. In addition, employees have had refresher training to ensure they adhere to our policies governing information security when working off-site.
  • As of March 19, employees in at-high-risk categories and all employees in our customer service units were all working remotely. This has drastically reduced the number of employees working in our offices.
  • Beginning the week of March 23, the only employees working from our offices will be those involved in the processing of mail, payments or other equipment-dependent functions. We have secured alternatives for these functions if it becomes necessary to entirely shut down our buildings.

While employees remain in the office, we have put these additional preventative measures in place to ensure employees' safety.

  • We have stepped up communications to employees to provide, at minimum, daily updates on business plans and to provide extra reminders of hygiene steps to avoid contracting the virus. Conference rooms are closed and we have removed tables and seating from our break rooms. Hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies have been placed throughout our buildings. On a weekly basis, our contracted janitorial service is conducting special deep cleaning using disinfectants.
  • Visitors are no longer permitted in our building. A health screening interview takes place for any required vendors, such as HVAC technicians, before they may enter our building.
  • All internal and external business meetings are now taking place via teleconferencing.

We continue to provide our customers with updates when significant changes happen that may impact them on our websites: www.IowaStudentLoan.org and www.AspireServicingCenter.com. We are also drawing special attention to assistance options available to borrowers impacted by COVID-19.

We are committed to supporting you and our customers during this challenging time. For additional information or assistance, please contact:

  • Jen Hempel, Compliance Director for regulatory questions.
  • Your school and lender liaison for college financial aid and lender questions.

March 16, 2020

We want to take a moment to assure you that, during this unprecedented health emergency, we are completely committed to supporting our borrowers and partners with uninterrupted services. This means we plan to continue:

  • Providing our and your private student loan programs to college students and families who need additional funding as well as borrowers looking to refinance their college debt.
  • Routing important loan data information for our lenders, colleges and universities through iLink, ScholarNet and ELM to ensure loan funds are distributed as needed.
  • Servicing our borrowers' student loan accounts in the same manner and with the same level of care and expertise they have come to expect from us. This includes providing assistance to borrowers who may struggle with payments due to interrupted work and potentially significantly decreased income.
  • Offering support to our business partners in the College Finance Benefits program.

Like you, we are adapting our plans as quickly as possible to respond rapidly to this developing situation. Currently:

  • Our goal is to have our office remain fully functional.
  • We have made plans to put the health and safety of our employees first in all decisions. Many of our employees will work remotely during this period, but will be available to you and your customers during regular business hours.
  • Our senior management team and lender and school liaisons will continue to provide you with information and suggestions as needed regarding extended disruptions to everyday life that impact college financing.
  • Our compliance specialists will monitor and implement any developments and directives from the federal and state governments regarding student loan repayment.
  • We plan to continue closely monitoring the situation. We will make business and safety decisions during this time with both your business needs and our employees' health in mind.

We are committed to supporting you and your customers and students during this challenging time with the same great service you have become accustomed to. Helping students, schools, lenders and our partners succeed when it comes to paying for college with outstanding service remains our goal as we move forward.

We hope you stay well. If you have any questions or concerns, please call or email us.

Steven W. McCullough
President and CEO