Student loan company workers might hate the industry just as much as the millions of borrowers struggling with crippling debt.
Nelnet, with nearly 8,000 full-time staff serving 16.8 million borrowers, is one of the largest loan servicers in the country, but some of its employees aren’t thrilled with its operations. After Insider was first to report that the company was laying off 150 of its employees, citing lack of work caused by the pause in student loan payments, Jo – a current Nelnet employee using a pseudonym for privacy – said told Insider they would spend eight hours a day listening to calls from borrowers whose lives are awash in debt they can’t repay.
“Student loans are terrible business,” Jo said. “I hate working in this, but you have to do things you don’t like when you need to earn money.”
Jo currently works at Firstmark Services, which is a private student loan division of Nelnet. But before that, Jo was in federal service and said ’emotional exhaustion’ is so extreme for some workers that they often snap if they’re in the job long enough, making it hard to sympathize with the borrower. student on the other. end of the phone.
But other workers are experiencing the opposite after listening to call after call about the debilitating effect student debt can have on people. For example, Jo said employees are given a checklist of prompts they should follow when a customer calls with refund issues, and no matter how serious the situation, the most a worker can do is to inform the borrower of the payment plans and thank them for their feedback.
“It’s normal to take time off after some calls to literally cry,” Jo said, adding that someone in her department had to take time off for her mental health “because he really put his heart into every call. which he received”.
Nelnet spokesperson Ben Kiser told Insider that “corporate culture is central to Nelnet’s concerns.”
“Living our core values of delivering a superior customer experience and creating an exceptional work environment requires constant feedback and a commitment to drive positive change through that insight,” Kiser said. “We can always do more to improve in both areas – and we are committed to the constant pursuit of improving our team and the millions of people we serve.”
Jo agrees that more needs to be done.
“People have consistently argued that we need mental health days specifically separate from earned time off,” Jo said. “We begged it and there’s clearly time for it. The company clearly makes enough money to offer it. It’s just not a priority or a value for them.”
“It’s just another company that underpays its employees and really cares more about making a profit”
Although Jo’s work is entirely customer-focused, she said Nelnet hasn’t prepared them for the mental toll it could take.
“There’s always the credits, ‘if you need to take a minute, feel free to take a minute, but don’t take too long because you still have things to do,'” Jo said.
According to Nenet, the company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where workers can get five free counseling sessions and other types of mental health resources. But once an employee has exhausted those options, Jo said there is little more to offer Nelnet, meaning workers will either have to pay for additional advice or continue working without them.
“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?” says Joe. They recalled an email from an employee in their department who left a comment on a customer email saying, “Fuck, I can’t do this anymore,” illustrating how the burnout can be serious in the industry.
Kiser told Insider that Nelnet should be “an employer of choice where associates are offered strong benefits in a caring environment in which they can grow and thrive.”
“As part of the process of continuous improvement, Nelnet regularly solicits feedback from our associates through anonymous third-party-administered associate engagement surveys and public meetings with all call center associates and loan service back office,” Kiser said. “These feedback opportunities provide thousands of insights into our culture, workplace and services from which we can improve.”
Job security, or lack thereof, can also add to the mental toll. Insider previously reported that following a series of unexpected layoffs, some Nelnet workers fear they may be the next to be laid off, even after being assured by the company that all job cuts have already been made. carried out.
Jo earns $17 an hour, and a fired Nelnet employee using Anne’s name as a pseudonym said insider raises are based on a scoreboard system that goes up to 5. Reaching “100 % Efficiency” gives an employee a score of 3, which earns a quarterly bonus of $100. Employees can earn a free t-shirt for dealing with a backlog or high call volume.
Nelnet did not comment on the process of getting a raise, but told Insider that the company’s headquarters “was recognized as the second-best place to work in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nelnet was also recognized as the 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 really the classic case of a company that when you start working for them, you’re told all these great, awesome things and you really sincerely believe that you’re helping and making a difference,” Jo said. . “And the longer you’re there, the more you see that it’s just another company that underpays its employees and really cares more about making a profit than helping the customer to the best of its abilities.”
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