Student loan company official says industry is ‘terrible’

Workers at student loan companies may hate the industry just as much as the millions of borrowers dealing with crushing debt.

Nelnet, staffed with nearly 8,000 full-time employees serving 16.8 million borrowers, is one of the largest loan servicing companies in the country, but some of its employees are not thrilled with its operations. After Insider first reported that the company was laying off 150 employees, citing a lack of work caused by the pause in student loan payments, Joe — a current Nelnet employee using a pseudonym for privacy — told Insider that they would be spending eight hours on day listening to calls from borrowers whose lives are falling apart because of debts they can’t pay.

“Student loans are a terrible business,” Joe said. “I hate working in it, but you have to do things you don’t like when you have to make money.”

Joe currently works at Firstmark Services, which is Nelnet’s private student loan division. But before that, Joe was in federal service and said the “emotional burnout” is so intense for some workers that they often disengage if they’re in the position long enough, making it hard to empathize with the student loan borrower on the other side. the end of the phone.

But other workers feel the opposite after hearing call after call about the crippling effect student debt can have on people. For example, Joe said workers are given a list of prompts to follow when a customer calls with repayment concerns, and no matter how serious the situation, the most the worker can do is inform the borrower about the payment plans and to thank him for their feedback.

“It’s normal to take time after some calls to literally cry,” Joe said, adding that someone in their department has had to take time off for their mental health, “because they really put their heart into every single call they get.” .

Nelnet spokesman Ben Kizer told Insider that “company culture is a relentless focus at Nelnet.”

“Living our core values ​​of delivering a superior customer experience and creating a great work environment requires constant feedback and a commitment to making positive change with those insights,” Kizer said. “There’s always more we can do to get better in both areas – and we’re dedicated to consistently pursuing improvements for our team and the millions of people we serve.”

Joe agrees that more needs to be done.

“People have been advocating all the time that we need mental health days specifically set aside from earned time off,” Joe said. “We’ve been praying for it and obviously there’s a time for it. The company apparently makes enough money to offer it. It’s just not a priority or a value to them.”

“This is just another corporation that underpays its employees and really cares more about profit”

Although Jo’s job is entirely client-centered, she said Nelnet didn’t prepare them for the mental toll it could take.

“There’s always the general, ‘if you have to take a minute, feel free to take a minute, but don’t take too long because you still have things to do,'” Joe said.

According to Nelnet, the company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in which workers can receive five free counseling sessions and other types of mental health resources. But once the employee exhausted those options, Joe said there wasn’t much Nelnet could offer, meaning workers would either have to pay for additional counseling or continue working without it.

“What do people do when the five therapy sessions are over … but they can’t afford to continue seeing a therapist because their health insurance doesn’t cover it?” Joe said. They recalled an email from an employee in their department who left a comment on a client’s email saying, “Shit, I can’t do this anymore,” illustrating how severe burnout can be in the industry.

Kiser told Insider that Nelnet should be an “employer of choice where associates are offered solid benefits in a caring environment where they can grow and thrive.”

“As part of an ongoing improvement process, Nelnet regularly seeks feedback from our associates through anonymous, third-party administered associate engagement surveys and town hall meetings with all loan service call center and back office associates ” Kizer said. “These feedback opportunities provide thousands of comments about our culture, workplace and services from which we can become better.”

Job security, or the lack of it, can also increase the psychological impact. Insider previously reported that after an unexpected round of layoffs, some Nelnet employees fear they may be the next to be let go, even after being assured by the company that all job cuts have already been made.

Joe makes $17 an hour, and a laid-off Nelnet employee, using the name Ann as a pseudonym, told Insider that raises are based on a scorecard system that goes up to 5. Achieving “100% efficiency” gives an employee a score 3, which deserves a $100 quarterly bonus. Employees can earn a free t-shirt for handling backlogs or large calls.

Nelnet didn’t comment on the process of getting the promotion, but told Insider that the company’s headquarters “was recognized as the second best place to work in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nelnet is also recognized as a Best Place to Work in Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin, as well as one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity and Women, respectively.”

“They’re pretty much the classic case of a company where, when you start working for them, they tell you all these cool and great things, and you really, really believe that you’re helping and making a difference,” Joe said. “And the longer you’re there, the more you see that this is just another corporation that underpays its employees and is really more interested in making a profit than helping customers in the best possible way.”

Got any tips? Contact Ayelet Sheffey at [email protected]

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