Hit the brakes before you contact a debt settlement company to grapple with your student loans — some may be in hotter water than you are.
NerdWallet, a personal finance website, compiled a watch list of 130 entities, representing approximately 100 companies, that provide debt management and consolidation services for student loan borrowers.
Debt settlement companies charge borrowers a fee to complete and submit paperwork to the Department of Education in order to help students consolidate their loans.
The catch is that this information is already available free of charge from the Education Department. Borrowers can also contact their lenders directly for consolidation and income-driven repayment options — and they can apply for them for free. And while many of these companies work with federal loans only, some also handle private loans.
"Some of these firms are charging upfront fees, monthly retainers or a percentage of a borrower's total balance to put them into programs borrowers can apply for on their own for free," said Brianna McGurran, who specializes in student loans at NerdWallet.