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Maryland

The following are testimonials submitted to this site. To tell your story, please go here.

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Witheld

I am writing to tell my sister's story.  She is no longer with us...She took her life a year ago.

My sister was the first in our family to attend college.  She graduated from Johns Hopkins University and did really well for awhile.  In her early 30s, she became ill (breast cancer) and was unable to work.  I am not sure how she was paying her loans, but I know the student loan representatives were hounding her.  I spoke with several on her behalf and little if anything was ever accomplished. 

My sister was out of work for a very long time as "chemo" made her very ill.  She was repeatedly called by student loan represtatives even when told how ill she was. 

I do not want to go into a great deal of detail, but I will say that my sister took her life as she said she simply did not want to live anymore.  What is interesting is that my sister was not terminally ill.  Her cancer was in stage 2...and her prognosis were very good.  What ultimately led to my sister's death is the way she was repeatedly hounded by collection agencies regarding her student loans.  I wrote to a Maryland Senator myself and stated that something has to be done about this.  People are being penalized for going after their dreams of becoming educated.  Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

My sister's life has been an inspiration to me.  I have decided to go back to school.  I promised her that I would not obtain any student loans...I am doing it the old fashion way....I am working 3 jobs to finance my education.  I will be somewhere in my early 40s when I finish, but at least I won't have to be concerned about being literally worried to death over student loans....


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Callie

We just learned about the show "60 minutes" did on Sallie Mae. We read the transcript and it brought to light some information we did not know.  We were under the impression Sallie Mae was a government institution. No wonder they so freely loan out money.
 
My son was at University of Maryland for 4-1/2 years, graduated May, 2005 - $87,000 in debt.  What a shock! We had to take out a second mortgage to help him pay this off.  Mainly, because we got tired of dealing with the incompetent people who work for Sallie Mae and the fact that the monthly payments were never the same. One day we talked to four different people and received different information from each one. That's when we got totally frustrated and went to our bank to take out a loan.
 
I think this is terrible to do to our young people. Education is encouraged, but there is certainly no hope for those who do not come from upperclass families, or families who weren't able to save enough money to help put their children through school.
 
I have contacted our Congressman, Roscoe Bartlett. I don't get upset over too many things, but this has really pushed my buttons and I am on the warpath!!!
 
I hope this website will help to put an end to the injustice of Sallie Mae.

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Lee

 

In the mid 90's I took out about $7000 in Parent Plus Loans for my daughter's college undergraduate education. I began repaying them as each year's loan became due in sequence.  In 1998 I experienced the onset of major depression and have not been able to work since then.  I applied for social security disability on the basis of depression but they denied me saying that even though my disability prevented me from doing the physical work I used to do that I could become a secretary.  Even though I did not have a physical disability and I had no secretarial training. I was also denied a second time stating that the government doctors felt I did not really suffer from fibromyalgia even though I had not applied for disability on the basis of fibromyalgia.  In order to live with no income I borrowed several thousand dollars on my credit cards to pay my bills and was ultimately forced into bankruptcy, lost my house, my flawless credit rating and had no where to live. 

 I began the long process of applying for forbearance and economic hardship with AES and Sallie Mae, my lenders.  Over the next 6 years there became a pattern of these lenders claiming they never received my applications and was ignoring my responsibilities.  Penalties and late fees began to accrue during long periods of time in which I was trying to convince the lenders that I had indeed sent in my applications. Eventually I had to begin sending everything certified mail and even had to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of MD to get AES to admit they received my 5th deferment application and actually grant me a deferment. Still, collection letters with huge threats of penalties continued. Letters I sent to Senator Barbara Mikulski asking for help were read but her office sent me a reply with statements from AES and Sallie Mae claiming I had never gotten in touch with them. At one point I was sent a denial letter for a subsequent deferment application and sent a copy of it to the senator asking how she could believe I had never gotten in touch with them when I could show them a copy of my rejection letter.  She never answered. I began to receive threatening letters from an agency called ECMC that I mistakenly believed would help me mediate these loans but they simply add their own threats and do not answer any questions regarding any culpability on the part of the loan companies. I finally wrote to the Dept. Of Education's Ombudsman.  

By this time I was no longer eligible for deferments and my depression does not qualify as a permanent disability.  I tried to get AES and SallieMae to help me consolidate but they just simply kept sending me deferment and disability forms. By this time I felt I was losing my mind. The Ombudsman wrote back and offered to consolidate the loans for me.  I was so relieved. Problem is after three more letters I have heard nothing further from him and the loans are about to go into default where the fun will really start. The lenders are calling all the people I put down as references for the loans stating they can not find me and that I have illegally failed to send them forwarding address EVEN AS they send me more threatening letters to my home. I now owe over $15,000 with no ability to work in the near future.  They are now threatening to garnish a significant portion of my social security disability check!!! I am telling all the young people I know and their parents to be very wary of student loans.

If I were well enough to go on a national speaking tour against all this outrageous fraud I would gladly dedicate the next years of my life to doing so!!!

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Cheryl

Since my job relocated to another state and I did not go, I decided to go for new training in a different field. In approximately 2000 I went to a technical school for training and I signed what I thought was a Sallie Mae loan, but is was SLMA.  Since Sallie Mae had such a good reputation, I knew they would work with me.  Up to that point I had excellent credit w/o a single mark so it was quite obvious I paid my bills promptly.  The loan was deferred a year and I went to school in the evenings while exhaustively working all day.  The next year, when the loan came due, I was laid off.  When the first bill came in, I paid it but I kept getting late bills and I could not understand why.  When I called SLMA, I was told my billing actually started two months before I paid what I thought was my first bill.  I explained I never received a bill and they told me that a bill is just a courtsey that they did not have to send one--I have never heard anything like that in my life.  Well, since I was laid off I could not pay three months + penalties and asked them to work with me for six months.  Which they did not, that is when I went to the SLMA website which is actually Sallie Mae, not much on SLMA which I think is very interesting and misleading the customer because it rides on the reputation of Sallie Mae and I again said that the site shows that Sallie Mae works with people that are laid off, but I again was told SLMA is not like Sallie Mae, which is interesting because the website is Sallie Mae? 

So to make a long story short, I did not pay for 4-6 months because they would not work with me, when I finally got a job, I paid 500% of the months bill (each month) and paid the loan off in 5 years instead of 15.  Now my credit report shows I was late for those months but does not show I made large payments or that the loan was paid off early.  It does show that I do not owe SLMA and suggests that the loan may have been sold.  This is not accurate and the 4-6 months are showing I was late which hurts my credit.  If they can show that, they should have to show I paid large sums and paid the loan off early.  What should have been fulfilling a dream became a nightmare.

I feel SLMA is more of a SLAM to an individual!  I was treated like a deadbeat and customer service was not very forgiving.  I feel they deceive people by using the Sallie Mae's reputation.    

I would like to know if you have a lot of complaints about this company?  I would like to know if there is anyway I can get this off my credit report, especially since I paid it off in 5 instead of 15 years?

I would not recommend SLMA to ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Meredith

I went to law school specifically to study environmental law so that I might work in the public interest to save our resources for future generations.  I attended Vermont Law School, where I was only able to attend because of the availability of student loans.  When I graduated, my debt was nearly $100,000.  When I first graduated, I took an entry-level position at a small non-profit, and I was immediately forced to consolidate my loans because I could not have afforded the payment otherwise.  When I consolidated, in 1996, interest rates were high, so I became locked in at 8%, which the loan company told me was a good deal, as interest rates could be as high as 12-15% or more if I accepted the "floating" interest rate.  Since I needed some stability and predictibility in my monthly loan payment, I locked in at 8%.  Now that interest rates are lower, I've tried everything to find a way to lower the interest rate.  And for ten years, I've been paying a huge!
  student loan payment, and I still have another $60,000 to pay off!  I've stuck to my guns on doing public interest environmental work, so I have continued working for state government or non-profit organizations, and I currently make less than half of what starting associates make at law firms.  But, as a result, I have no savings, next to nothing in my retirement account, and I've not been able to purchase a home.  With the real estate market spiraling out of control, my chances of being able to afford a home now are next to nil.  I am absolutely outraged that this country allows people who simply want to better themselves, and in some cases, help to better the world, and instead of helping these people to make a contribution, we are penalized and financially crippled for a lifetime.  It is absolutely criminal in my mind.  What can I do to help bring this issue to light?  I just saw your editorial in the Baltimore Sun, and I was so relieved to FINALLY see that there is an organized movement on this issue.  


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L.

I am a 49 year-old minority male with 2 degrees, a B.A. in French Civilization in 1985 and an M.A., in French Civilization in 1990, earned during accredited U.S. exchange programs.  Owing to circumstances beyond my control; namely, the difficulty of getting appropriately placed in properly structured positions for which my degrees were designed, such as  the teaching field, I found myself in a situation of default.

Subsequently, I became a regular federal employee, who is presently bogged down in an EEO grievance process, that doesn't even address the issue of amnesty or refinancing for student loan payments because of the way complaints by regular federal emplyees are processed.  Your testimony in the May 7 "60 Minutes" expose was accurate in that creditors have the right to continually garnish tax refunds, and even retirement benefits for outstanding obligations, since there is no statute of limitations that eliminates these obligations, unlike regular consumer debts.  In 2005, I found myself having to make payments on a federal loan for my first degree to a company that contracts with the Department of Education to collect on student loans via an "informal" (namely "over the telephone") agreeemnt by virtue of which I was told that after I satifactorily completed a 6-moth repayment program, the interest on my loan would be eliminated.  As of March 2006, the amount has grown to approximately $3,232.21 after the addition of fees and interest. (I agreed to this sort of "unofficial" arrangement, because I was attempting to control a situation that was getting out of control, and thought that simply making any type of repayment agreement was better than trying to ignore this type of federal debt, even if it was incurred for reasons that I was unaware of:  after all, I had graduated in 1985 and could not recollect what my financial situation was at the time I received my diploma.) I was also told that positive information on the repayment would be reported to credit agencies so that I could improve my credit score, which of course is necessary in order to be able to be approved for financing of any type of home, or condominium. What really happened was that, almost 20 years after I received my first diploma I was harassed for this obligation,of which I was genuinely unaware, because of the present Bush administration's horrendous policies towards student loan holders.  After the end of the 6-month period of time, this  initial company (the name of which did not figure on the documents sent me by the Department of Education), not only did not report the satisfactory 6-month repayment to credit agencies, but also sold the loan to a company name VanRu Corporation, who did not eliminate the interest and who had no knowledge whatsover of the first company that held the loan;  thus I find myself in the position of having to reneogtiate for the elimination of the accrued interest-over a period of almost 20 years, with a 2nd company, that isn't making any attempt to remove the interest.  Now, on top of the original 6-month program I satisfactorily completed, I am now being told by this second company, that I have to finish a "10-month" program, making the same monthly payments I was making in the first program, with, this time, no guarantee that the interest will either be reduced or eliminated.  I also recently had my 2005 tax refund entirely garnished by the Department of Education, which I am sure, passed the money directly to VanRu Corporation.  I complained to my Maryland District 8 Congressional office, that is also assisting me with my federal complaint.  This office of Democratic Congressman Christopher VanHollen has sponsored legislation to end this predatory practice of "reselling" student loans for the purpose of saddling student borrowers with excessive amount of interest payments that make it almost impossible to satisfactorily pay off loans.

I have a 2nd student loan obligation, incurred during the financing of my Master's degree program that entered into default for similar reasons and which has been sold several times, most recently, I believe to the DCS Corporation (a collection agency) by the New York State Department of Education.  The present obligation is $10,433.46; but owing to my absolute inability to pay concurrently on 2 loans, given my current revenue and the high-rent district in which I live, this obligation went into default. 

I am extremely concerned about the situation because I'm almost 50 years old, and am wondering whether I will ever be in a position to purchase my own residence or even qualify to purchase a residence with another individual.  I am attempting to shield the money I have in a retirement account from the federal government since I am nearing retirement age.

I also do not want subsequent tax refunds that I am due to be continually garnished by the U.S. Treasury department, when I am actually making monthly payments on these loans.  This is incredibly unfair after I have made a good faith effort to repay these obligations.  I don't make a lot of money given the area of the country in which I live;  this continual harassment of student loan holders not only considerably reduces my disposable income, but is not even giving me any peace of mind, since I have no idea whether the interest on these loans will be reduced or forgiven.  (I am unaware of any legislation pending before the Congress that would grant interest forgiveness, or loan reduction, when individuals have entered into some sort of repayment agreement for defaulted loans.)

Because of the sensitivity of this matter, I would prefer that you not use this story for any television or press expose to an outside party before seeking my permission.  You may contact me by email.  I do not give out information on my current employer to reduce the possibility of garnishment activities, which can, under certain circumstances, happen to one's salaries, and which could bankrupt me.

I am already extremely demoralized by this situation, and do not feel that I have been getting enough help to reduce and/or eliminate these obligations.

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Jonny

When I graduated from college I already knew that I had been scammed by the student loan companies. But that was ok. I decided to get even. I balked at paying my loans because I feel you should not have to pay a dime to get an education. College in the USA is no longer about educating the uneducated. It is about how much money you can squeeze out of a person when he is most vulnerable. Therefore, once I finished I left the country. What I did was I learned as much Spanish as I could and headed for Argentina where I have worked as a doctor for the last 5 years. I have become very wealthy and have returned to the states many times and sometimes amuse myself by contacting the collection companies that still send me letters to a Po Box I set up and telling them "the check is in the mail". I laugh my ass off as I am sipping a pina colada in South Beach, Miami. Listen, don't get ripped off by these companies. Just do what I did, learn another language and get t!
 he hell out and don't pay them back. Eventually they will learn that they cannot continue ripping us off! Good luck! and viva FREE EDUCATION!!!

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Gary

I am a 1990 law school graduate.  I had no educational debt prior to starting law school, as I took a year off between undergrad and law school to pay my undergrad educational loans.  In any event, I took out a private  loan (either through Sallie Mae or eventually purchase by Sallie Mae) to cover living expenses while I attended law school full-time.  The original loan amount was $8,000.00.  It took me about a year to find a decent job.  Even afterwards, I had a number of debts that had accumulated, including my debt to Sallie Mae.

My total debt to Sallie Mae (forbearance/deferrals (but never in default)) eventually exceeded $30,000.00.  Only this year have I been able to pay off my debt to Sallie Mae through re-financing my home.  I was glad to get that elephant off my back.

Well, here is the part that just angers me most (this is aside from the fact that I paid Sallie Mae more than $22,000.00 over what I borrowed):By the time Sallie Mae received my payoff, $17.00 additional dollars had been added as interest.  Believe it or not, Sallie Mae REFUSED to waive such minimal amount.  So I will pay them .25 cents per month until the balance is paid.  Let them go thru the hassel of cashing that check.  It costs me nothing to do it on-line and hopefully a lot of aggravation for them to process.

   


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Regina

I have borrowed from Sallie Mae.  I deferred at first b/c I was not employed full time after graduation.  I borrowed roughly $20,000.  I will be paying back $42,000 after interest.  I have contacted the business on numerous occasions to ask questions.  Most of the time I am put on hold for period of 7 minutes or longer, the website is not consumer friendly, and when the customer service reps try to assist, it is useless.  I have finally emailed them and told them to no longer send me information via email and that I expected everything via USPS.  They don't send an evelope w/the payment coupon to send the payment (I guess we don't pay enough for that to happen and it would set the company back). 

I am extremely annoyed b/c I have never been in default and have made payments in good faith in order to keep my credit score healthy.  I am a teacher and I am not in the profession for the pay (another national problem).  Therefore, I will have to take the entire 30 years to pay off this loan since I am not in the field that makes much money.  I do apply for scholarships, etc. when eligible to try and help pay down the principal on the loan.  I continued to pay through my masters program b/c the interest would continue to build and it wasn't worth it in the end.  Finally, my last year I did defer the billing due to going through a divorce and being in financial distress.  I was paying $180 a month w/only $30ish going to the principal and the rest to interest.  This is a neverending cycle that is very difficult to break.

I did ask to consolidate when the interest rates went down, but I was told b/c I already did once (@ 8%) that I was not eligible.  Please keep in mind that they refused to do this even though I have never been late or skipped a scheduled payment.  My payment history w/them is beyond good. 

I detest Sallie Mae and as a teacher, I come into contact w/many new teachers and those still in college.  I take every opportunity to share my experience w/them and steer them away from Sallie Mae.  I feel that we must do this as a community service b/c I would hate to know that others are suffering the same fate as those of us that are stuck!!  If only someone would have told us at that time.  The college I went to (UMBC) pushed me to Sallie Mae and afer reading about their 'kickbacks', it all makes sense.  It is truly ashame that this company isn't customer friendly and cares more about money than the students that it serves.  It's even more embarassing that our government not only tolerates this, but encourages it.  Politicans should be responsible for their actions.  However, if they are getting support from Sallie Mae, that clearly shows their committment to what is good for the people.  Yet this country values education???  What a complete and total joke!! 


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PC

I graduated from law school in 1995. Since that time, I've had difficulty finding well-paying law jobs and I've had 2 near-death health problems (kidneys). I've accumulated over $185K in loans (interest included) from school.

When I graduated, I wanted to repay all of my loans. I still want to repay my loans but life simply has not worked out in such a way that I have income to repay these debts without starving (Over $1,000 per month for student loans a month, plus rent, plus food, plus car note/insurance, plus utilities). Forget about having a savings account!  I do not own  a house or any other luxuries (I have an old car).

For some reason, I thought going to professional school would secure my future. Yet, I feel it's actually been detrimental to my financial well-being. I've got friends who never went to college and somehow they're better off financially than me. Go figure.

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Valerie

I'm a single mother of two trying to pay back a loan from college thats now over 100,000-starting at 55,000. I don't know what to do..Sallie Mae refuses to lower my $550 payments. I make about about $4890 gross. But what I'm confused about is what about taxes, healthcare? I bring home less than $3200 month. Rent being $1800 month (Dc area not cheap!) With two children and one in college after all my bills I have only $400 month not including- gas, child care, groceries!
Someone please help!!! I just got my credit almost good and I don't want to mess it up but I simply can not afford to buy this month amount...

 

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C.T.

I come from a middle class family of 5 who lived from paycheck to paycheck. I managed to get out of undergrad in the early nineties without debt because affirmative action scholarships, church/community scholarships, and summer work helped a bit.

I incurred $67,000 in debt for 1 year of master's study and 3 years of doctoral study. My first job in 1996 gave me $33,000. I didn't graduate with the Ph.D. until 1999. I consolidated my loans in 2000 which reduced them from $930 to $530 per month. I still couldn't afford that, being a single woman paying life's expenses. I used up my forbearances. I was supposed to get married in 2004 and the plan was that I would pay only my car note and student loans for the first year. I used the last of my deferment while planning this "freedom" wedding that would finally permit me the luxury of a two person household income. The wedding fell through 2.5 months before the date, and I ended up moving 3 times in a year and a half period as recovery for giving up my cheap apartment.

I finally reached a salary where I could pay my loans in late 2005, occasionally being late, but able to catch up. However, the glitch was that with my forbearance used up, although I was making a monthly payment of $533.60, I couldn't pay off the past due amount, which was alway 60 days or so away from default. So, I got tenure as a professor, was finally able to afford the loan (for the most part), but getting one, two, or three months behind, put me in default range. So now the loan companies are demanding $3200 by next month or else my loan goes officially into default. The problem is that they never give us all the information we need earlier enough to offset. Did you know that if you are in the default/pre-official paperwork filed default (beyond 270 days past due, but not yet in the system as a formal default) they switch the rules and require you to make payments brining you only 180 days past due, rather than the 269 days past dues--which is the standard definition of default. So, I could muster $1500 or so by next month, but that will not help me because now the rules have shifted that I have to make 6 months worth of payment at a time. Needless to say, my loan in $6900 past due; I owe $87.000 now ($20,000 more than before), and they will increase my debt by 18% on the current principal + interest amount of $87,000 if I default. That 18% (plus collection fees) is insane. That will increase my debt to over $100,000 (which is practically $40,000 more than the original loan). That's such extortion. I would love to advocate if I knew how and to whom to cry to get help. Good luck to all. This website is encouraging. I can't believe we are being extorted. I'm planning a defense to America's extortion systems. Soon, I'm going to live like I'm in poverty just to save my money and withdraw from America's economic system. Power to the people. I'm so sorry everyone is going thorugh this. My salary just reached $63,000 this year,so I will be able to get out of this, even though the increased debt is a chore.

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Daniel

The principal on my Citibank student loan is $40,000.

At the time I signed up, I felt that I would pay maybe $10,000 on top of the principal I was taking out. The important thing was getting an education and altough I knew that I had to finance much of it, I truthfully wasn't worried. My parents had set some money aside, but I quickly went through it as tuition and expenses were easily $30,000+ a year.

Today, as I am finally starting to understand what I have signed away, I am paying graduated payments at about $300 a month. Not even 1/4 of this is towards the principal. When I do consolidate, I will end up paying $132,000 dollars over 30 years; more than three times what I have borrowed.

I feel like I should have been more cautious but truthfully, my options were limited and I didn't know what I was getting into. Should I have been so encouraged to go to college?

I currently have a decent job that I wouldn't have without a degree. Between rent, living expenses and my loans, I have a few hundred dollars that I can save a year, if I am lucky. I feel like I will be climbing out of debt until the day I die and I am realizing how factual a reality this actually is. If I could have gone in another direction when I was 18, I can honestly say that I would have taken a long look at other options.

What is happening to students in the United States is disheartening. The question that I have is, what can I do to change it? The sad truth is, there is very little I can do other than slowly pay off my loans and attempt to maintain my credit. Graduate school is a dream. I simply cannot afford taking out additional private loans to fund the next several years of my life. I have learned that the institutions that issue these loans cannot be trusted and if things remain the same, I will encourage my children to explore different avenues.


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Ken

I graduated from a law school in 1993 that was "affordable" if not prestigious. I work in public interest, improving the justice system in a bipartisan way. I'm making a difference for a 30th %-ile salary in the non-profit sector. My job satisfaction is terrific. My story is isn't.

I locked in my qualifying loans in consolidation at 9% in the early 90's. I have never been in default status, though I have fallen 1 and 2 months behind at different times of my life, following a divorce and another big event. To help, I got deferments of 6-months to a year on the loans for which I could. The result is that after 12 years of making payments in excess of $500, I owed $52,000. The problem is that I started with $49,000.

The inability to refinance is a killer that even some Republicans favor. But a story I don't see anyone covering is how such loans are front-loaded with interest, even though student loan interest no longer qualifies for the write-off that mortgages still do. (the 1,000 benefit that I pretty much missed entirely doesn't make up for what you would qualify for if that write-off were reinstated). To have repaid more than $50000, be in good standing, and yet to have lost money, is unconscionable to me.

In the 108th Congress, I remember Education and Workforce Chair John Boehner shutting down his Republican colleague Hoekstra in a hearing. Hoekstra was interested borrowers being able to shop for better rates, like borrowers do in mortgage lending. Boehner's explanation: "It violates the sanctity of the contract that borrowers sign with their lenders."

Forget the fact that *lenders* are buying and selling student loans regularly for profit. Forget the fact that we allow homeowners to "violate" the sanctity of their contracts with banks. Forget Republican ideals on the marketplace setting the price, or on individual's autonomy. Just a neo-con sell-out.

Another situation -- I underpaid my loan by about $50. The next month I did the same, so I was $100 under, but had a tax refund coming. But before I got it, I got a note saying I was 60 days late on the original $50 (they only apply payments in excess of your monthly payment to outstanding balances). So on their suggestion, I applied for a six month deferment just to clear everything up and start over. They said it would take about a week to go into effect. That week took it a couple of days into the next pay period. So what happened was that I lost a full month under the deferment to cover the month from which the first $50 was late, I lost another month for the second $50 was due, and because I was 2 days into the next period when the deferment started, that was another month. So the 6-month deferment was only for three. How is this consistent with the policies behind the deferment?

At least I know I'm not alone. Thanks for your work that stops any of these practices.

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Kenna

I took out several plus loans (parent for student) for my four daughters several years ago. I still owe a balance of nearly $60,000 and pay a monthly payment of nearly $500.00 at 8% interest. If I did'nt have direct deposit my rate would be 8.25% per year. I made the mistake of consolidating my loans when 8.25% looked pretty good and I'm not allowed to consolidate again. I'm stuck. I consider 8% excessive, higher than most credit cards. I feel that these lenders should make some interest for loaning us their money, but 8% is unreasonable and over the top.

I'm now retired on a fixed income. I just wish that Congress would allow some form of reconsolidation. I'm willing to pay my fair share. This whole scheme smells like an Enron scam as excutives steal under the disguise of government legislation vast amounts of revenue for their own benefit.

 

 


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