Student Loan Finance Corporation
After more than 30 years in the student loan business, everything changed in 2008 for Aberdeen-based Student Loan Finance Corporation (SLFC). But, through innovative programs, a stellar workforce and top-notch customer service, SLFC is not only still standing, but thriving.
“When we started out in 1978, we provided capital and servicing for federally backed student loans,” said Steve Kohles, president. “All that changed in ’08 with the market collapse and shortly after when the federal regulations changed. Suddenly, we weren’t dealing with federal loans anymore.”
So, at a time when many were getting out of the student loan industry, SFLC changed its focus to private loans.
“We started a new loan program, the iHelp loan which is a national program with community banks, and that really helped get the company back on track,” Kohles said. “We have always had a strong commitment to exceptional customer service, and that has proven to be beneficial.”
Typically, most student loan servicing companies have several groupings of customer service representatives. A borrower will deal with one representative if they are in good standing, another if they are past due, and another if they have extended delinquencies on their account.
At SLFC, that is different.
“After your loan is originated, you are assigned to a customer service representative for the life of your loan. We have found that building relationships with our borrowers creates a significant level of trust and loyalty, which in turn has made our delinquency rate exceptionally low,” Kohles said.
Per the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the national student loan delinquency rates for all types of student loans are at 31.5 percent. SLFC’s delinquency rates are less than 4 percent. Kohles attributes that statistic to the quality of their staff in South Dakota.
Kohles said that the average tenure for SLFC’s 60 employees is 10 years, and that the company employs customer service representatives, individuals that deal with federal and state compliance, and its own IT staff.
“Our colleagues in other states are amazed by our workforce longevity, as well as the level of technology we utilize,” Kohles said. “Some in the industry believe you have to be big to be successful, but we have proven otherwise. We like being in South Dakota and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We have a wonderful staff, and can do anything here.”
Kohles added that South Dakota’s business climate has been an asset to the company because “South Dakota lets businesses be in business.” That is why all of SLFC’s operations stay in South Dakota.
“We are truly a South Dakota company. We work with South Dakota lenders to make loans and then service those loans in South Dakota,” Kohles said. “We just can’t emphasize that enough, and are continually working to promote ourselves within the state.”