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I am the oldest of seven children
from a one income household. My father told me going to college
would make my life better and I would earn more over my lifetime than
with a high school degree. Boy was he wrong! I took out
approximately $70,000 in loans for college and grad school. I
work as a social worker with the elderly and make $30,000 a year.
My loans are now $129,000. I have deferred, consolidated and
defaulted for eight years. I have made payments when I could and
then would stop because I couldn't pay what they were asking.
They have harassed me and my family. They have taken my tax
refunds for years now. I was able to work out a payment agreement
with Van Ru who holds $110,000 of my loans which are federal. I
am paying $100 a month which won't ever put a dent in it. The
problem is the other $19,000 are private loans held by OSI. They
won't accept reasonable payment arrangements. They want no less
than $2,000 a month which is barely my income for the month. I
have been paying them $50 a month for the past few months but they said
they would still sue me. The worker at OSI was rude and
threatening and when I talked with her "supervisor" he said I could not
talk to anyone else about this and that she was specially trained to do
this. If I treated people the way she treated me I would be
fired. I have written them letters and gotten no response.
I got a letter from a lawyer in my area over the weekend stating that I
needed to pay the balance of $19,000 in full or they would exercise
their rights. What about my rights? I also owe the IRS and
have other debts from a failed marriage. I just want to make
affordable payments and live my life. I am only thirty years old
and my life is ruined. Who would want to marry someone with this
mess. How can I have kids with this debt. I will never own
a home or a new car. I have a car from a buy here pay here.
I don't keep money in my bank account or have direct deposit for fear
they will seize it. I can't believe they would sue me when
I don't have anything. I am shackled in the poverty that I grew
up in and foolishly thought I could escape. It does make me feel
depressed and like giving up. I want to fight back I just don't
know what to do.
Borrowed about 60,000 through law school. Defaulted
on loans. Was encouraged to consolidate even though I told them I was
unemployed. Defaulted again. Current loan balance of 170000. Was
advised to get on income contingent repayment. Told that if I filed
taxes separately, that my wife's income would not be used to calculate
repayments. Found out that is not true. Waiting to see what my monthly
payment will be. I think a lawsuit against Department of Ed and various
credit agencies would be appropriate.
After many years as a single
parent and after my children had 'grown and flown,' I made plans to
invest in my own future. I entered a two-year nursing program with the
goal of obtaining an RN license. My years of experience as a medical
secretary and medical editor influenced this decision. I chose a
two-year program at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts.
At this point in my life (1983), I had no savings or assets; so I
borrowed from friends, the federal government, and the Higher Education
Loan Plan (HELP) of Massachusetts--$5,000 from the latter.
After graduation I worked on a
hospital floor for several months until I realized that an old back
injury made it very difficult to do full-time. Since I was a good
student, I decided to invest further in my nursing education and
eventually find a job in teaching or administration. I assumed that my
loans would be deferred.
There was no problem with my federal loan, and every semester I filled out their pink deferment form. Of course, there was no problem with the friends from whom I had borrowed money. The HELP people, however would not grant a deferment. They told me I was in default. It was never clear why.
Nursing study is very demanding.
Besides classes it also involved many hours of unpaid physical work and
travel to multiple sites. It was difficult keeping up financially with
tuition costs and my own support, as well as this loan, and from time
to time, I fell behind. The HELP people penalized me and charged extra
fees. I tried to make different arrangements with them, but they were
never to my advantage. I was constantly harassed by around a dozen
different credit companies.
While working on my degrees, I maintained a part-time position as a nurse and also did my earlier freelance editing and indexing to support myself. Although I kept making payments, the HELP people ruined my credit rating. It became even more difficult when I could not afford to keep a car on the road. Also, I lost most of my freelance indexing work as now everyone was using a computer, and I could not afford one.
Due to a number of family problems, I moved from Bangor to Portland, Maine, but I finished with a graduate degree in 1996. By that time I had paid over $11,000 for my $5,000 debt. The Dept. of Education will be quick to tell you that they did not keep track of my fees and penalties. At graduation, I again had no savings, no assets, no computer, no car. At that point the HELP people said I still owed approximately $2,000.
I looked for a position as an advanced practice nurse. My field was in oncology, and at one point Sloan-Kettering was interested in me. However, I could not imagine how I could afford to move to a new city. I could barely maintain rental costs and other monthly bills. I could not afford to file for bankruptcy.
I tried to make an arrangement-a year after graduation and after catching up with all of the above-to pay the $2,000, but the HELP people insisted that I now owed much more. I had used this time to participate in a national oncology program which allowed me a number of opportunities to look for work. My finances, however, never allowed me to make the necessary leap.
At about this time credit card companies were making a large sales push, and I was able to obtain one. I was then able to pay back taxes, pay for some dental work, buy a computer and get caught up on my bills. Except for this so-called HELP loan I have had no other debt since.
Now in my later 60s, I have been
fending off a number of diagnoses, and have come to rely on Medicare
and Social Security to a great degree. Approximately $150.00 is taken
from the latter every month to pay the interest on this same HELP loan.
I still work as a nurse (there is a nursing shortage, and I work short
shifts)-on a per diem basis and I am still able to do some freelance
indexing. However, the HELP people say I now owe @ $11,000 again. The
"offset" from my Social Security benefits is not applied to the
principle. There is no way I can ever obtain this amount. In fact, I
expect my income to decline sharply in the years to come.
I plan to write my federal representatives in both Massachusetts (where I lived when I obtained the loan) and Maine for possible assistance. After years of anxiety and exhaustion trying to keep up, until I heard about StudentLoanJustice.Org, I did not think there was any hope.