By using our site you accept the terms of our cookie policy

The Business Elite: CEO of the Year – Arizona

May 3, 2016


Champion College Services Inc.

In January 1988, Mary Lyn Hammer was hired by a school in Tempe, Arizona, to become the nation’s first full-time Default Manager, at around the same time that student loan defaults were first becoming a notable issue, in need of a solution. Owing to her banking background, and embodying the primary goal of servicing by keeping borrowers current and preventing foreclosures and repossessions, Ms. Hammer quickly realized that the only way to ensure proper loan servicing was to intervene and act as a liaison between the borrowers and their servicers.

After a career spent systematically eradicating the rampant fraud and abuse that dominated the echelons of the student loan industry, Champion College Services is the intellectual inheritor of Mr. Hammer’s early work. The Champion program is truly based on the essential, proven and hands-on techniques that were developed to prevent student loan defaults in the 1980s, by a woman that was once herself an at-risk student, a victim of institutionalised corruption the likes of which she has since been defending and championing.

The journey towards founding Champion College Services led Mary to first establish Hands On Default Management, Inc. in 1990, to cope with the numerous new requests for assistance in stemming the surge in student loan defaulting. In the subsequent 14 years, schools assisted by Mary and her staff have seen dramatic results through the implementation of rigorous plans aimed at increasing student repayment rates through a network of support.

During this time, Ms. Hammer also presented evidence to Congress and the US Department of Education, testifying about the existence of a corruption ring in California putting companies out of business whilst costing the government an estimated $750 million to rectify. By 1989, her Hands On Default Management Program was recognised by the USDOE, and became adopted into government doctrine – known as ‘Appendix D’, this critical legislature cemented Mary’s reputation for not only achieving meaningful results, but in bringing in a new wave of default management programs, that have since achieved a positive effect upon tens of thousands of American students every year. These included a range of statutory and regulatory cohort default rate appeals, the language of which had a direct input from Ms Hammer herself. By 1998, she had further assisted in the publication of several revisions of the Cohort Default Rate Guide, and had worked with Congressional members to achieve a reauthorisation of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Having championed advocacy on a federal level, Mary has since settled for leading the charge in providing specialised care to students at risk of defaulting on their loans. In fact, for the first 5 years, the initial program included software and training at the school level. While this solution worked well for some schools – which today are still enjoying successes – others wanted to concentrate on education and requested that Hands On form a third-party servicing branch. Hands On, Inc. was born as a result, and this represented an ultimate combination of in-school software with full servicing by a professional, highly trained staff resulted in phenomenal results for client schools.

As the scope of Mary’s business expanded over the years, it has touched the lives of more and more American students, and has even set its sights, albeit briefly, upon foreign markets; the complexity of other country’s radically different education systems did not phase Mary Hammer’s vision. In 1998, Hands On Canada was formed, making history as one of only two companies approved to oversee default prevention programs in Ontario, the largest provincial provider of education in Canada. The only thing that led Mary to close these Canadian operations was her becoming a mother in 2001, whereupon she elected to focus on her family.

As such, Champion College Services came into being in 2004 – since then, it is universally recognised as the most effective, specialized default prevention provider for higher education loans since 1989. The goal was to better represent the expanded offerings cultivating among the overwhelming requests from our clients. As a result, from its inception right into the present day, Champion has been devoted to providing custom software and carefully designed protocols, allowing Mary and her staff to consistently achieve successful results.

In this ongoing work, Mary has a solemn pledge to her clients: the professional commitment of her company is as it has always been, to their institution, so as to preserve a reputation as a provider of quality education experiences. Adopting an intimate understanding of the value of education and preserving relationships between students and their educational institutions is central to Mary’s continuing enterprise,

Just as Ms. Hammer had once realized, the only way to insure proper loan servicing is to intervene and act as a liaison between the borrowers and their servicers, a truth that remains today. The Champion home website bears a particularly appealing link simply entitled ‘Default is Lame’. With its tongue very much in cheek, it is easy to understand how Mary has been able to tap into the hearts and minds of her target market.

When it comes to the potentially sticky topic of collecting money or charging fees from students for their services, Champion provides a simple message: they do not do either of those things. Their reputation as trusted student loan repayment experts carries over into their business, and the free service entitled to all enrolled and former students means that no one can miss out on the federally-recognised program that Mary has honed and perfected since the late 80s. From like skills classes to expert advice on responsibility and on choosing the best repayment schedule, Champion’s focus is not on delivering a set package and demanding that students adhere to it, but on giving them the freedom to explore as many options as possible. That way, defaulting rates decrease, repayment rates go up, and the lives of millions of American students becomes just that little bit less stressful.

Over the three decades that Mary Lyn Hammer has been passionately fighting to improve processes and rectify problems for schools and students, on Capitol Hill and beyond, the accomplishments of Champion have received accolades from the industry, the press and the American Government. 

Furthermore, a sure sign of the impact that Champion has had across the United States comes from Mary Hammer’s eleven-year tenure on the Board of Directors of the Northwest Career Colleges Federation, a position to which she has been continually reappointed since 2005.

The future for Champion, and for Mary Hammer, rests upon upholding its mission, all in the interests of their school clients. Providing sustainable mentoring; empowerment; training; education; healthy life skills; thriving careers; healthy life choices; community engagement – these are the facets of a widely successful enterprise born out of necessity more than anything, but it has taken Mary Hammer’s special vision to make it a reality. Providing mentorship, in the interest of developing healthy life skills for her student customers, is what she has done all her career, and she shows no signs of stopping now.

Company: Champion College Services Inc.


Phone: 800.761.7376

Web Address:

Address: Champion College Services, 7776 S Pointe Parkway West, Suite 250, Phoenix, AZ 85044