Let me guess: Your federal student loans are in default, and you just learned that the Department of Education has sent your loans for collection with the Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland.
📷: Kevin Grieve
You want to know your options. And, more importantly, you want to stop a garnishment from happening.
So what do you do?
The short answer is that you likely have three options. You can (1) rehabilitate or (2) consolidate your defaulted student loans, or you can (3) set up voluntary monthly payments.
In other posts, I go into depth about consolidation and rehabilitation. Because of that, in this post, I’ll stick to a recap here.
Before we get to that recap, let’s start with learning more about who your loans have been placed with.
Who is Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland Inc.
Let’s start with the basics.
PBC Collections is a collection agency. Much like ConServe, they’re one of the collection agencies hired by the Department of Education to — you guessed it — collect on your defaulted student loans.
According to its website, PBCM was founded over 20 years ago in California. Now, they’re headquartered in Denver Colorado. (They still maintain a call center in California.)
Why they call themselves the Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland when they seem to have no ties to Maryland, I don’t know. I wasted about 15 minutes trying to search for an answer on google to no avail.
As for when PBC collections started working with the Department of Education, from best I can tell, that began in July of 2016. The current contract value is said to be over $3 million, making them one of the smaller collection agencies the Department works with.
How to contact Professional Bureau of Collections
PBC of Maryland’s web address is pbccorp.com.
The number to their corporate office is 800-270-9685.
The better number to call PBCM when it comes to your student loans, in my experience, is 844-225-5501.
Similarly, the better number to fax them your student loan documents is 303-488-2505.
Of course, if you’d rather mail your documents, here’s their mailing address is:5295 DTC Parkway
Greenwood Village CO
Now that you know how to contact PBCM collections, let’s turn to answer some other questions you may have, like:
Can PBCM collection garnish my wages
Yes. PBCM can garnish your wages for a defaulted federal student loan. And they can do it without a court order.
The Debt Collection Improvement Act allows the Department of Education to garnish your disposable pay. Basically, your disposable pay is the part of your pay that remains after your employer deducts the other amounts its required by law to withhold.
Another question you may have is…
How much of my wages can be garnished
For most of you, PBCM can garnish 15% of your disposable income. But if you have defaulted federal student loans with more than one collection agency, then 25% of your wages can be garnished.
Now, I mentioned earlier your wages can be garnished without a court order. Having said that, the Department still has rules it must follow before it can garnish your wages.
The most important rule is this:
You’re supposed to get notice of garnishment
The rules provide that notice must be sent by mail to the last known address at least 30 days before the garnishment process starts. The problem with this rule happens when you moved after you borrowed your student loans.
If you haven’t updated your address with the Department, they may mail the notice to an address you no longer live. And if that happens, the first time you might learn of the garnishment is when you see money missing from your paycheck.
But what happens if you get notice from the Professional Bureau before the garnishment starts?
That brings me to the recap I promised you earlier.
You may be able to set up a voluntary payment or consolidate or rehabilitate your defaulted student loans
You have 3 options to stop a garnishment but only 2 of those ways get your loan out of default.
Consolidation and rehabilitation get you out of default. Consolidation gets you out of default by combining your loans into a brand new loan. That process takes about 2 to 3 months.
Rehabilitation, on the other hand, gets you out of default by making 9 monthly payments over a 10 month period. Your monthly payment can be as low as $5 per month. Because this process takes at least 9 months, it’s a lot longer than consolidation. That’s a con, obviously.
But there is a proof rehabilitation. Once you finish the rehabilitation process, the Department of Education may likely waive the collection fees it added to your loans. With consolidation, the collection fees are added to your principal balance.
- How to Get Student Loans Out of Default
- How to Rehabilitate Your Federal Student Loans
- 5 Options to Stop an Administrative Wage Garnishment After it Starts
- Settling a Federal Student Loan
Oh, before I forget, you’ll likely have one other option: settlement. Don’t get your hopes up though. Settlement of federal student loans suck. You’ll likely only be able to settle for 85% of what you owe. And, what’s worse, is that you typically have to come up with that money in less than 90 days.
What to say when speaking with a PMBC rep
Your main goal is probably to stop the garnishment. If that’s true, then ask them what your options for doing that are.
Here’s what they should tell you:
- You can request a hearing;
- You can set up voluntary payment arrangements (unless they’re part of a rehab agreement, these payments won’t get you out of default);
- You can enter into a rehabilitation agreement (this is where you make 9 monthly payments of as low as $5);
- You can pay the balance in full; and
- You can settle for less than you owe if you can come up with a lump sum in a short time.
If you’re looking to set up a payment arrangement, rehab or otherwise, grab a copy of your tax return and a recent pay stub. The ConServe rep should use that information to calculate your monthly payment.
Here are a few of the forms they may have you complete:
- Financial Disclosure for Reasonable and Affordable Rehabilitation Payments
- Department of Education Rehabilitation Agreement
- Standard Repayment Agreement
What are the reviews for Professional Bureau Collections of Maryland
Let’s start with how alleged former employees of PBCM have reviewed the company:
Whoa. That’s bad. But check this one out.
That’s what the employees have to say.
People with student loans haven’t had much nicer things to say.
Here’s one woman who complained PBCM wouldn’t stop calling her employer even after she asked them to stop.
To be fair, the very nature of PBCM’s business as a collection agency lends itself to negative reviews. But, still. Damn. The reviews — especially the employee reviews — are rough.
Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland is a legitimate collection company hired by the Department of Education to collect your defaulted federal student loans. They’re not a scam — at least not when it comes to federal student loans.
If you want help in dealing with your loans that have been placed with PBCM for collections, you can email me or: