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Based in West Des Moines, Iowa, Aspire Resources Inc. was founded in 2001 as a for-profit subsidiary of Iowa Student Loan, a private nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors appointed by the governor of Iowa.

Aspire Resources was created to provide loan services to other student loan providers that fall outside the scope of Iowa Student Loan’s original tax-exempt designation. Aspire works with students, educational institutions and lenders to provide private loan servicing and facilitate loan data transfers through its iLink service.

In April 2012, Aspire Resources became a servicer of direct federal student loans, after the Department of Education awarded the company a contract to handle 200,000 loans in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. The move came on the heels of 2010 legislation that allowed the government to farm out loan servicing to qualified nonprofits and their affiliates.

But in July 2015, Iowa Student Loan announced that Aspire Resources was exiting the federal direct loan servicing business, and that responsibility for servicing all of the direct government loans handled by Aspire was being transferred to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA).

In August, Iowa Student Loan shed further light on the decision, saying that Aspire Resources had staffed up to handle what was expected to be a growing direct loan portfolio, only to be thwarted in its attempts to add to the number of accounts it serviced.

As a result, the 2012 servicing contract had become a “heavy cost burden” to the company, and was terminated at the request of Aspire Resources — and not as a result of the company’s performance as a federal loan servicer, Iowa Student Loan President and CEO Steve McCullough said in a statement.

With Aspire’s contract to service federal direct loans set to expire on Sept. 30, Iowa Student Loan said it would slash its workforce from 300 employees to 240 once it had finished transferring its direct loan portfolio to MOHELA.

Iowa Student Loan and Aspire said they are pursuing “several significant new business opportunities,” including an alliance with Illinois-based LinkCapital, which refinances medical professionals’ loans.

Another Iowa Student Loan subsidiary, Aspire Servicing Center (ASC), was founded in 2014 to provide student loan customer service for private and federal student loans.

The Aspire Servicing Center continues to provide customer service for borrowers with federal student loans that were previously serviced by Iowa Student Loan, and for borrowers with private student loans offered by Iowa Student Loan and other lending institutions.

Repayment plans and forgiveness

Federal student loans offer a number of repayment plans, ranging from standard (shortest amount of time, least interest) to graduated and extended loan repayment plans. Extended loan repayment plans stretch payments out over as long as 25 years but generate more interest payments.

Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-based or income-sensitive repayment plan. Guidelines for these programs are established by the federal government, rather than loan servicers, but borrowers are advised to contact their loan servicer for help deciding whether a repayment plan is their best option.

Public service workers with federal direct loans can receive loan forgiveness through a number of programs offered by the federal government. Forgiveness is also available on qualifying federal loans including for circumstances including death and total disability, false certification (school closure and unpaid refund), and bankruptcy. For more details on federal loan repayment plans, visit the Aspire Servicing Center.

Making payments

Aspire offers many different payment options on the loans it continues to service, including auto-debit, monthly payments by mail, and payments by phone. There is no discount for using the auto-debit service, and the company claims they do not add any hidden or extra fees. Aspire does allow early or extra payments towards student loans so borrowers can repay their loans faster.

For private student loan borrowers, the standard repayment plan allows for repayment terms up to 20 years. A graduated repayment plan allows borrowers to begin with lower payments that increase by 10 percent every two years. Finally, the “Select 2” plan allows borrowers to pay interest only for the first two years. For more details on private loan repayment plans, visit the Aspire Servicing Center.

Aspire student loans review

Although Aspire Resources is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, the company has an A+ rating with the bureau. The BBB has closed 38 complaints it received about Aspire Resources in the last three years, including 11 in the last 12 months.

Some complaints concerned excessive emails and phone calls, especially during the first 30 days of service. The complaints against Aspire are similar to those lodged against other third-party student loan servicers, often claiming a lack of communication and customer support.