CornerStone Student Loans Review

CornerStone is a legitimate student loan servicer. Learn more about their services and alternative payment options provided to help the borrower.

Updated by Jason Joy Manoj on 16th August 2019

CornerStone Education Loan Services is one of the Federal student loan servicers. They have more than 35 years of experience in the market.

The company is run by the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority. They work with students from all around the United States to help these borrowers by providing them services to repay their federal student loans. They aim not only to provide finances for higher education but also educate borrowers to save and borrow wisely.

Federal loans are given out by the government but they aren’t in charge of collecting the monthly payments, they appoint loan servicers. Cornerstone is one of the loan servicers, who take an initiative after the loans are disbursed to administer the loan payment activities.

They can also be your servicer even if you are not in close proximity to Utah. In case your loans have been handed to CornerStone for service, this article will help you understand everything you can expect from them.


List of contents


Student loans serviced by Cornerstone

When most student loan servicers tend to service both federal and private student loans, CornerStone only offers to work with your federal student loans.

It also means if you have any of the following types of loans, CornerStone might be your servicer.

  • Perkins Loans

  • Direct Subsidized Loans

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans

  • Direct Consolidation Loans

  • Direct PLUS Loans


Services provided

As a Federal student loan servicer, CornerStone is majorly responsible for processing your student loan paperwork, collection, and management of the payments that you make towards your federal student loans. They will provide customer services for the same.

In addition to that, CornerStone also indulges in other essential activities that are expected from a loan servicer. This includes helping students get rid of their student loans. Hence as a student loan borrower, you should get a better understanding of the many services which can be extended to you by your loan servicers.

The following is an outline of the many services that Cornerstone provides.

  • Indulges in helping student loan borrowers to manage their dues

  • Aims to help borrowers move to a new payment plan if they choose to

  • Aims to help borrowers understand if they are eligible for a student loan discharge or forgiveness

  • Aims to help borrowers realize their options for deferment and forbearance in any event where they are unable to afford to make payments

Let us look at them in detail.

1 - Various repayment plans offered 

Repayment plans that are offered by Cornerstone are as followed.

a) Standard repayment

This is the repayment plan that you will be put on by default, if not mentioned otherwise. This plan comes with a fixed amount on a monthly which is meant to pay off your loan amount during the specified loan term.

b) Graduated Repayment

Here you are required to make smaller payments in the beginning so as to not burden you early on in your school life. The amount of monthly payment, however, increases as time goes on in order to adjust the loan amount so that your loan amount is paid off by the end of the loan term.

c) Extended Repayment

Here you will have a reduced payment on a monthly basis but you will be paying for a longer duration. This leads to a much higher amount being paid overtime as you will be accumulating interest over this extended period which will get capitalized each month.

d) Income-based repayment plan or (IBR)

In this plan, if your loan was first disbursed to you on or after the date July 1st of 2014, you will pay about 10% of your discretionary income. You will be making these payments for a duration of 20 years, after which any balance that remains can be forgiven.

If your loan was first disbursed to you before the 1st of July 2014, you will pay about 15% of your discretionary income. You will be making these payments for a duration of 25 years, after which any balance that remains can be forgiven.

e) Income-contingent repayment plan or (ICR)

In this plan, you will pay either 20% of your after taxed income or the amount that you might pay on any repayment plan that has a fixed payment over the time of 12 years which is remade according to your income, whichever is lower. After 25 years of making these payments, if any of the balance remains it will be forgiven. Keep in mind that this is considered taxable income and you will have to pay taxes on the amount that is forgiven later on.

f) Pay As You Earn (PAYE) 

In this plan, you will be paying an amount equal to 10% of your discretionary income but not any more than the amount you would end up paying on a standard repayment plan. After about 20 years you can have your remaining loan amount forgiven.

These repayment plans all have their own eligibility clauses separately and are made available to those borrowers that have Federal student loans.


2 - Payment methods offered 

If you do have CornerStone as your loan servicer, the following are the payment methods offered. You may choose the one which is most convenient for you.

Automatic payments (Autopay)

If you find it difficult to keep track of the number of payments to be made each month, CornerStone has made your job easier by providing an Autopay option available to you where your payments will automatically be deducted from your account each month.

In addition to the ease of tracking your payments, you have the opportunity to get a decrease of up to 0.25% on your interest rate (as long as you are enrolled). 

Online

You are required to have an account through Cornerstone's online portal. You can make payments online anytime. Cornerstone then helps you by saving your bank information to make it easier for you to continue making payments in the future. They help you in scheduling payments for the future too. So you will never miss any payment deadlines.

Although CornerStone currently has no mobile application of its own, the website is very mobile-friendly, unlike many other services.

Phone

To make a payment over the phone, you have to call ConrnerStone over the phone and inform them that you want to make a payment. This facility is available from Monday through Friday during Cornerstone's regular working hours.

When you opt for paying through the phone, you are able to schedule your payments up to a period of 60 days in advance. Your payments can be deducted from your account within a period of 1-2 days from when you make the call.

Check mail

Here, you can also pay through the slowest method being the traditional mail. CornerStone recommends that you mail in your check at least 5-7 days before your due date to make sure the payment is received on time.

You are also suggested to write down your account number when you send in the mail in order to make it easier and faster for them to apply the funds without any mistake.

Other payment methods 

CornerStone accepts electronic checks, paper checks, and money orders. 


3) Assisting borrowers during a financial difficulty 

If any student is facing severe financial hardship, they can decide to place their student loans in deferment or forbearance. These are two options that are available for all borrowers of federal student loans.

Deferment is a process through which you are able to stop your monthly payments for a short duration on your federal student loans. If you have federal student loans, you are able to qualify for deferment by satisfying some requirements which are stated below.

  • Being enrolled for at least half time as a student

  • For up to 3 years if you are experiencing financial hardship such as losing a job

  • When you are put on active military duty, a military operation or a national emergency

  • You become disabled or are required to be caring for someone who is disabled

  • You are on leave from work because of pregnancy

  • While you are taking care of your newborn child or a newly adopted child

Whether you are required to pay the interest that accumulated on the loan during the period of deferment depends completely on whether your loan is a subsidized loan or not. If they happen to be subsidized loans, the federal government will pay the interest. If they are not subsidized, you have to either pay for the interest or it will end up being capitalized.

Student loan forbearance differs from that of deferment as you are responsible for all the interest that accumulated regardless of it being subsidized or not.

Before you consider going through with student loan forbearance or deferment, you should go do some research and find out if your interest will accumulate or not. Also, know how each option will end up costing you over the period of the loan.

Most often, other than any true economic or financial hardships, you should find that an Income-Driven Repayment plan might end up becoming a better choice than any sort of forbearance and deferment.


4) Assisting during difficulty in making payments 

If the event that you are unable to make the monthly payment on time, do not fret. There are a couple of things that you can do with Cornerstone.

Due date changes

Just changing your due date can be enough to help you make regular timely payments. In case you find your due date falling on the same day with the due dates of some other monthly payments, you have the option to change it. You can put in a request asking to shift your due date to some other day in which you have lesser obligations. This will enable you to make your monthly payments with lesser stress.

To have your due date changed, all that is required of you is to contact Cornerstone's customer service department on the phone number 900-663-1662.

For you to be able to change your due date, you will have to satisfy the conditions stated below.

  • Being in repayment

  • Have a history of timely monthly payments

  • Choose a date that falls between the 1st and the 28th of a month for your new due date

Have your payments reduced?

If you still are unable to find it easier to pay back your student loans after changing the due date, do not fret. As Cornerstone is a federal loan servicer, it is obligated to help you, by law, to understand the options that you have to switch to a different repayment plan. You only have to contact them and request for a change in repayment plans.


5) Interest rate deduction 

Since CornerStone does not set the interest rates on your student loans, you have very limited options to reduce it through them.

If you want a 0.25% reduction in the interest rate you could sign up for automatic payments with Cornerstone. However, this does not automatically guarantee the reduction but it makes you qualify for it.

It is also dependent on the type of student loans that you currently possess. A measly 0.25% might not mean much to you but with respect to the total loan amount, it might turn out to save you money in hundreds and thousands over the life of your loan.

For example, let us imagine you have student loans that amount to $25,000 with an interest rate of 4.5%. Over the timeline of 10 years on a standard payment, you will have to pay a total of about $6,091 in terms of interest. If you dropped the rate by say 0.25% you would end up paying only about $5,731 in terms of interest meaning that you would save close to $360 dollars.

If you are still looking for some more interest rate reduction, you will have to consider student loan refinancing with some other private lender.


6) Benefits provided specifically for service members  

Cornerstone provides a number of benefits for members in the armed forces, here is a brief description of  the benefits provided 

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Interest rate cap 

The interest is limited to 6% for federal loans obtained prior to your enrollment into the military service. This is applicable for private education loans as well.

Military Service deferment 

This allows you to postpone any repayments for certain periods while on active duty such as war, national emergency.

Public service loan forgiveness

After making 120 qualified payments you can qualify for forgiveness for the remaining balance of your direct loans. Given the payments were made after Oct 1, 2007, while employed in public service including military service.

Post active duty deferment 

Following your active duty while you prepare to go to school you can postpone any repayments to be made.

Veterans Total and permanent disability discharge

You can avail of total or partial dismissal of your federal student loan repayment if you have a service-connected disability. The Department of Veteran Affairs will notify CornerStone if they have decided that you qualify for this. However, you can also start the process yourself by following the guidelines mentioned on the website.

Repayment based on income

These payments are based on your income. You may qualify for a low or zero payment amount with even a possibility for the forgiveness of the remaining balance.

HEROES Act Waiver

Documentation, as required for a particular program, is waived if you are on active duty.

Department of Defense(DOD) Repayment of your Loans

This benefit is particular for federal loans, where all or a portion of your loans may be repaid by DOD. To know if you are eligible for DOD please reach out to your commanding officer.

0% Interest Rate Benefit 

If you are serving in a hostile area that qualifies you for special pay, you may qualify for a 0% interest rate on Direct Loans made on or after October 1, 2008, for up to 60 months.

You must meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • Your loans were disbursed on or after October 1, 2008.

  • You qualify for the Military Service Deferment AND

  • You serve in an area of hostilities in which service qualifies for special pay under Section 310 Title 37 of the U.S. Code.

If you are unsure if you are receiving special pay, you can find it in your orders or by reaching out to your commanding officer.

Here are a few points for servicemembers to keep in close consideration 

  • Update your phone number, email ID, etc on your online account before you leave on deployment.

  • Authorize a close individual to manage your account while you are away.

  • Grant a power of attorney to someone you trust to help keep track and take care of financial decisions while you are away.

  • Make interest payments so that the balance will not increase.

  • Take up an automatic payment option to help ensure that payments are being made each month.

  • Place an active duty alert on your credit card to avoid any chances of identity theft from happening.


How do I get in touch with Cornerstone?

If you are looking to get in touch with Cornerstone to discuss your student loan repayment, we have a couple of options for you to consider. By fax, mail, phone or even directly if you are close to salt lake city, Utah.

Phone and fax

Here you can call them up on the number 900-663-1662. Any sort of Paperwork and other documents can be sent to them through fax to 901-366-5122.

Their operating timings for the call center range from Monday to Thursday, beginning from 6 am all the way to 7 pm, and on Fridays from 6 am through 5 pm.

Mail

If you plan on getting in touch through the ail you can do so through their mail address as follows -

P.O. Box 145122

Salt Lake City, UT

84114-5122

If you'd like to talk to them in-person

In case you are in proximity to Salt lake city, Utah and you'd like to meet any of the representatives of Cornerstone, you should be able to do so by visiting the address mentioned below. Their operating hours for the walk-ins from Monday through Friday last from 8 am through 5 pm.

The address is as given below.

Board of Regents Building, The Gateway

60 South 400 West

Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1284

If you'd like to reach out to them through social media 

They do not just use their social media for the purpose of distribution of valuable informative content and publishing them in the purpose of educating the borrowers, you are also able to get in touch with the Cornerstone representatives through the social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and more.

They usually have a response time of less than a couple of hours on Facebook.


Pros and Cons of CornerStone

Borrowers do not make the decision of who their student loan servicer company should be. This decision is made by the federal government.

Even so, it is very important that you as the borrower, have this information so as to help you make the right decision as to whether you must stay and continue with Cornerstone or consider changing your federal student loan servicer to some other lender by refinancing them.

Also, you need to know what a loan servicer is eligible to do and what they aren't allowed to.

As and when it comes to any financial company, Cornerstone has so many reviews from so many students from across the country. Some are good and some are bad. While many of their customers are mostly happy with their responsiveness and customer service, many others have had experienced otherwise.

Pros

1 - The need for financial literacy 

The Cornerstone's website offers a lot of information that is designed to help those borrowers to get to know the student loans better and the variety in terms of options that are available to them. Also, there is a wide library of information for the borrowers that are also active members of the armed forces.

Cornerstone has put in the time and effort to get content on their website regarding the financial basics such as credit, general financial literacy and budgeting and also have added a few calculators and some games to make it more user-friendly.

2 - Option for Direct Debit 

You are eligible to sign up for automatic payments to make it easier to manage the monthly payments. You even get your interest rate possibly reduced by 0.25% point.

3 - Ways to get in touch with Cornerstone 

Other than just the usual ways of contacting them through a phone call, email, regular mail, and fax. You are also able to get in touch with the Cornerstone representatives through their social channels.

Cons

Although Cornerstone is great in most aspects as a servicer, there are a few places where they can make improvements.

1 - Customer service 

Even though some of the borrowers seem to be happy with Cornerstone's customer service, there is quite a number of negative reviews. Many of them state the lack of a clear line of interaction between the company and the customers regarding the late payments and the collections.

There are although mixed with many other reviews which are mentioning amazing customer service.

2 - Their lack of any sort of online form for submission 

Although some loan servicers have forms online that enables users to submit them online, Cornerstone sadly does not seem to be on this bandwagon.

If you require any sort of deferment, change in a repayment plan, forbearance or any sort of services other than the ones mentioned above, you will be needed to get a print-out of the forms and send them through the mail. Although this can be a little inconvenient, it is still alright in some aspects.


Reviews

Cornerstone Education Loan services as a student loan servicer having experience in the field for the greater part of the past 35 years in the purpose of helping borrowers manage and eventually pay off their loans. There is no question of whether they are legitimate or not.

There are hundreds of reasons that college graduates who have their student loans serviced by Cornerstone might end up refinancing or consolidating their student loans to another lender. But for now, it is important to note that they authorized by the department of education to service FFEL and Direct loans. And will assist you on your repayment journey in every way possible.