Kevin – Let’s look at it this way. You’re paying roughly $3600 a year in interest on that debt. Over five years that’s a little over $18,000. The counseling agency can get that down to 0 (you won’t even find a debt consolidation loan for that rate) and you’ll be debt-free at the end of those five years. The damage to your credit won’t be anywhere near what it would be with debt settlement.
As a debt junkie for almost ten years, I ran up credit card after credit card living like my salary was about four times its actual size. Stupid things I bought on credit included flying lessons, weekends in Las Vegas, and a brand new pickup truck. Hey, I never said I wasn’t having fun. (Remember, I’m on the other side of 25 now, so I started college pre-recession… during the dot-com boom. Back then, I actually thought I could graduate with a sociology major and find a $75k a year job—because I knew people who did!)
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa.
I’ve only been in the program a few weeks. I’m rather disappointed with their csr. At first they treat you like you’re golden and give the impression that they actually care. Once I signed up I tried reaching out to the lady who originally helped me,she completely ignored me and has not replied to any of my emails. It just feels awful being tossed to the side like garbage after initially being treat with attention and support.
The federal government allows you to consolidate eligible federal student loan debt from multiple loans into one big loan for convenience. Doing so will not lower your interest rate -- the new rate on the consolidation loan is determined by a weighted average of debt you're consolidating -- but it makes sense if you have many loans from multiple years of school and keeping track of all of them is difficult. 
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.  
On the flip side, the Debt Management Plan is designed to be paid off with regular monthly payments over approximately four years (our clients use an automated payment system so their consolidated debt payments are transferred electronically). These timely payments over the course of years have a very positive impact on the client’s payment history, which is the largest factor in calculating one’s FICO score. (That also means, of course, that if a client is late with their Debt Management Plan payments, there will be significant negative impact on his/her score.)
Experian, one of the three major credit bureau companies in the U.S., said the impact on your score should be minimal if you and the agency making payments for you, are on-time every month. If lenders look at your full credit report while you are in a DMP, they will see that you are repaying the debt at a reduced rate and it may affect their final decision on whether to grant you a loan.
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