In a Nutshell: College tuition is costly. Many students use loans to finance their higher education expenses. Arkovich Law helps borrowers understand student loans and explore avenues to reduce their student loan debt. The firm’s YouTube channel highlights ways borrowers can manage their student loan debt. Arkovich Law offers student loan consultations to provide one-on-one support to borrowers seeking additional assistance.
Students preparing to pursue higher education have a lot on their plates. Deciding which school to attend, which discipline to study, and where they’ll reside while attending school are just a few of the decisions prospective college students must make. Aspiring students must also determine how to finance their education.
The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in the 21st century. Many students turn to loans to fund their higher education pursuits. But, borrowers may not fully understand the terms of their student loans.
Arkovich Law, based in Tampa, Florida, helps borrowers understand their student loans and how student loan debt can be reduced or eliminated. Arkovich Law opened its doors in 1995. We spoke with the firm’s Founder, Christie D. Arkovich, to learn more about Arkovich Law’s efforts to help students struggling with student loan debt.
“One of the biggest problems consumers experience is that when they visit the Department of Education’s website for help, they just get lost,” Arkovich said. “For one, a lot of the loan forgiveness information isn’t covered very well. If you look at studentaid.gov, it doesn’t really cover a lot of the details that borrowers are seeking.”
Arkovich said she spent years of her law career opposing bankruptcy discharges, including a stint working for Sallie Mae. Later in her career, Arkovich switched sides to focus on consumer work. In recent years, Arkovich Law has focused almost exclusively on working with people with student loan debt. Arkovich said she estimates that 95% of her practice’s work is related to student loan debt.
“It’s very rare that borrowers aren’t able to develop a plan for substantial savings after consulting with us,” Arkovich said. “We’re focused on working with people who’ve been trying to deal with their loans for decades, and they’re not getting anywhere. They’re just frustrated. That’s our ideal client. That’s who we’re able to help the most.”
Relief for Borrowers With Private Student Loans
Arkovich Law has a YouTube channel that focuses on student loan topics. Arkovich said the videos resonate with borrowers and provide them with concise insights regarding student loans.
“Our YouTube channel is good because it wakes people up to the reality of their loan situation,” Arkovich explained. “Borrowers can watch the videos and develop their own course of action or reach out to us for further assistance.”
Arkovich said she works with individuals who have reached retirement age and would like to retire, but they must continue working to pay their student loans. Arkovich said she also works with borrowers who owe more on student loans than on any other loan, including mortgages.
“Loan interest is an issue that some borrowers aren’t prepared to deal with,” Arkovich said. “You may graduate with $30,000 in loans to repay, but interest can turn that into $70,000 in no time.”
Arkovich said federal programs don’t provide relief for borrowers with private student loans. She said she has argued that private student loans, in many cases, aren’t different from any other type of consumer credit that is normally dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Arkovich said many lenders steer individuals to private student loans because of their non-dischargeable status. Lenders thought that private student loans were considered non-dischargeable debt due to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which Congress passed in 2005.
“These loans were never certified by a school and were often just issued to borrowers in the form of a check,” Arkovich detailed. “Borrowers could use them to pay off a car, a spouse’s credit card, or other non-education expenses. Private student loans also have all the earmarks of a consumer loan, such as high interest rates and a co-signer.”
Lawyers have challenged private student loans in court. Arkovich said judges have decided to discharge private student loan debts in some bankruptcy cases.
“The process to eliminate private student loan debt in a bankruptcy is something we’ve been doing for probably over 10 years now,” Arkovich said. “But it’s just starting to percolate, I think, to where there is now more of an awareness about discharging these types of loans.”
Plans for Those With Federal Student Loans
More students use federal student loans than private student loans to finance their education. Arkovich said it used to be difficult for borrowers to retain Arkovich Law’s services for purposes of attempting to discharge federal student loans.
“We just simply would not take those cases,” Arkovich said. “There was a very high standard to meet in order to have a federal student loan discharged. That changed in November of 2022.”
Arkovich said the Department of Justice issued new guidance in 2022 stipulating that it partners with the Department of Education to review the cases of borrowers who can’t repay student loans.
Arkovich said some borrowers have successfully argued in court that their federal student loans have caused them undue hardship.
“Some borrowers have argued that they can’t live their lives and repay their student debt,” Arkovich said. “And that process has been successful. The discharge rate for borrowers involved in these types of cases is about 70%, which is really good for federal student loans.”
Not everyone is an ideal candidate for having their federal student loans discharged. Arkovich said borrowers with federal student loans less than 10 years old shouldn’t seek to have their loans discharged as the Department of Education is likely to object to discharging those loans.
Strategy Sessions Focus on Solutions
Arkovich said there are situations where she advises borrowers to seek to have their federal student loans discharged.
“If you’re 65 or older or have a disability or experienced an injury that negatively impacts your potential to earn an income, then you may be eligible to have your federal student loan discharged,” Arkovich said. “And the injury doesn’t have to be one that resulted in a permanent disability — it just needs to have impacted your income.”
Arkovich said individuals who have been unemployed for five out of the last 10 years and those who didn’t earn a degree from the institution of higher learning they attended may also have their federal student loans discharged.
Another factor the Department of Education considers when evaluating loans for discharge is whether the borrower has engaged with their loan servicer.
“Making contact with a servicer is going to be a factor in a borrower’s favor,” Arkovich said. “That includes individuals who believe they were misguided by their servicer and those who’ve called their servicer and been placed on hold for a long time.”
Arkovich Law charges clients $350 for a student loan consultation. Arkovich said consultations can occur over the phone or via video conferencing if the client prefers.
Student loan consultations called strategy sessions usually last one hour, and Arkovich said she or the managing attorney walks clients through precisely what they need to do to achieve the best outcome.
“We’re usually able to fully help the borrower during the consultation session, and they don’t have a need to hire a lawyer after that,” Arkovich said. “If we learn during the first 15 minutes of the session that there’s nothing more that can be done for the borrower, then the fee is refunded. But for those we are able to strategize with and develop a plan of action, the fee is very small compared to the savings they’ll see.”