Student debt story: Dear Sallie Mae, I can’t afford you. You’re too high maintenance. And your cutesy name sucks

I’ve been in a panic these last few months. Making minimum payments on my student loans serviced by Sallie Mae Inc. was no longer merely a challenge – it was getting impossible. After making some awful sacrifices to refrain from defaulting (see more on that below), I’m in a corner.

I am aware of the total lack of consumer protection associated with student debt. I knew that if I was unable to make my minimum payments, they would hit me with late fees, penalties, etc. They would harass me. In ruining my credit history, they would make it impossible for me to get access to basic services. Forget about taking out another loan – I’m talking about not being able to rent an apartment. And defaulting would not only mean a ruined credit history, it would mean that my debt would double, triple, quadruple, etc…I would be a slave (serf) forever.

But I took a long, hard look at the numbers, and I realized that I am already a slave (serf is an appropriate word, see comments below).

Here is a screenshot of the current status of my Sallie Mae loans as of November 27, 2011 (click to enlarge):

how sallie mae screws people

Notice anything?

Original balance: $37,099.00

Current balance: $35, 908. 41

I’ve been in repayment since 2006. I had to do one deferral – as to not default. I signed up for a program to minimize my payments that, I was told, was beneficial to someone who is going through financial difficulties – yet I regularly made payments over the minimum payment.

Because Sallie Mae helpfully provides a payment history, I was able to whip out a calculator and count up the exact amount I have paid over these last few years.

That amount is $23, 449.65

I was done before I even knew it. And applying for more deferrals will send me deeper and deeper into debt. Decades and decades of payments – as I grow old. There’s no end in sight. The system counts on this. The people setting it up knew that most of us would not be able to sustain payments over time.

Of course, the lending industry has its own arguments. 

But you knew you’d have to pay out more under your current payment plan!
Like many recent graduates, I had the following two options: default or allow myself to get even more screwed over wrt interest rates. I thought that I was picking the lesser of the two evils. I regularly paid more than I owed in a current month. You can see how well that has worked out.

The whole point of the student loan industry has to do with applying interest rates to loans! Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be profitable! Nobody would lend students the money to go to college!
These interest rates are not just predatory – in this economy, they are unsustainable. This system is broken. I was helping sustain it with my payments – now even that option is gone.

You really should have thought about that before going to Duke!
Seems to me that circa junior year or so, I had to have a Duke dean call Sallie Mae on my behalf – because they were refusing me a loan at the time with no justification (actually, their actions were directly tied to my parents’ financial troubles at the time – that much was obvious). It was only because I was at Duke that I had that kind of assistance, based on the stories other people across the U.S. have told me.

Like most U.S. institutions of higher learning, Duke costs too much. The astronomical cost of tuition is an exact reflection of our values – not just as members of the Duke community, but as Americans. We Americans pride ourselves on the lack of a safety for people like me. We’re rugged individualists, dammit! But entrapment of students does not help our society in the long run – it defies financial logic.

Oh, so first you were begging us for loans – now you won’t pay them back! Hypocrite!
I was desperate to stay in school. That was the “responsible” thing to do – look at how much scorn is heaped on “the drop-outs.” And I was already in debt from previous years – so I correctly reasoned that dropping out, and ending up with debt + no degree would screw me in the long run. Whups – I’m still screwed!

There are major profits to be made from peasants who decided that they too are entitled to receive degrees – most often because that is the only way to get a good job in the U.S. (something that people are eager to forget when they get on their soapboxes about “the irresponsible poor”) And people in default are, in fact, even bigger cash cows, and not just for the feds. People are not just punished for falling behind on student loans – they are trapped for life. Professional licenses are revoked, wages garnished, friends, family and employers harassed. People are made examples of, so that others fall in line. And when they do fall in line – here is where they end up. Why is it that forbearance fees are legal again? Because, the system is stacked against borrowers? Gotcha.

Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You’re a professional journalist, a wife, a mother!
Shame is one of the great tools of what is an all-out class war. The funny thing is, by all appearances, I’m an American success story: immigrant family, great education, international career, husband I adore, fantastic baby who wears little hats with ears. But, like many people, I am being suffocated by a screwed-up system.

You know what I am actually ashamed of? Gambling with my life and the life of my kid because of student debt. Check out this article I wrote for Foreign Policy about giving birth on the state’s dime in Russia. One detail I “forgot” to mention is that my husband and I had the money to pay for a private contract at a Moscow hospital – thing is, it was a lean summer, and I was terrified of defaulting. I was so brainwashed by the system that owned me that I wouldn’t touch the money meant for Sallie Mae. My father, who’s been struggling financially as well, wired me some cash – that was set aside for loans as well. I actually went against my husband’s wishes and put myself and my child at risk, because I was trying to be “financially responsible.”

My son’s face greets me every morning. It says, “I trust you, mother.” When he grows up, I’m going to have to explain the risks I took with him while he was at his most vulnerable, because I wanted to be a good little cash cow.

This wouldn’t have been the first time I skimmed on health care. Because I could not invest in decent preventative care while having dental problems, I lost two teeth at the ripe old age of 26, to give one example. I have literally been falling apart, all of the sake of letting people make a buck off of me. Except I can’t afford to do that anymore – I have to be able to take care of my child.

But you’re not even poor!
We have a myth of the “deserving poor” in our culture – it’s similar to the myth of the “good rape victim.” But like most people living real lives, I have my financial ups and downs. I’ve all sorts of things these last few years: walking people’s dogs for grocery money, sitting in a cafe in Chelsea, drinking a glass of moderately priced champagne and asking the readers of this blog for Paypal donations.

As a writer and journalist, I supplement my income with freelance writing gigs, much like my director husband supplements his with acting gigs. All of that together makes up our family budget. When the gigs dry up, so does the money going towards my loans. We’ve been chasing more work, but as the economy continues to suffer, and the cost of living goes up while jobs evaporate, people like us end up competing for jobs that barely exist. And I would rather have what little money I have left right now into paying down my government loans (at least the interest rates there are not ridiculous) and the modest amount I had to spend on credit cards while being between jobs.

Consequences will never be the same!*
Some people kill themselves after defaulting on student loans. Driving these folks to suicide is an essential component of the system, because, once again, it keeps the rest of us in line. I know the consequences are going to be devastating – it’s part of the reason why I’m so pissed off.

What are you even trying to accomplish here?
Besides making my situation clear for the loan sharks who will come a-callin’? I want to make a public promise that I am not going to put student debt ahead of my needs and the needs of my family anymore. I also want to once again point out the obvious – something is seriously wrong here.

Fox News can spin stories such as mine however it wants to, but at the end of the day, we’ve got people saying that student debt is hurting the economy as well as individuals. Maybe they’re right. I don’t know if there is a clear explanation for why we have ended up with this system in the first place. All I can tell you is that it is crushing people beneath its weight. I live abroad now – so people can say that I am one of the lucky ones, for now. I don’t know, maybe society will continue to deteriorate and eventually we’ll have debtors’ prisons – though then again, with the way the system is rigged, we don’t need debtors’ prisons. Awesome, ain’t it?

And who thought of names like “Sallie Mae” and “Fannie Mae”? I think J.K. Rowling may have written about this person:

uh huh

We all know how she ended up.

*-Yeah, that joke is kind of old. Whatever.

208 thoughts on “Student debt story: Dear Sallie Mae, I can’t afford you. You’re too high maintenance. And your cutesy name sucks

  1. This. Oh my gods, this. I got my first email from Miss Sallie a week ago. I’m doing temp work now but it’s nowhere near regular and I can’t find a full-time position even as a freaking receptionist/admin assistant, despite the close to 100 applications I’ve sent out. When I don’t have temp work, I have $0 income. Just a couple of points I want to emphasize:

    I was desperate to stay in school. That was the “responsible” thing to do – look at how much scorn is heaped on “the drop-outs.” And I was already in debt from previous years – so I correctly reasoned that dropping out, and ending up with debt + no degree would screw me in the long run. Whups – I’m still screwed!

    Yeah. I dropped out briefly because my mother had (and still has) some serious health issues. Went back and finished my degree, lest I be one of those “irresponsible drop-outs”. The twin to that reasoning you mentioned are the people who think college is useless because “Look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and…” insert fabulously wealthy innovator who never went to college. The whole, “if they could do it, so can you”. No. The reason we know who those men are is because they are exceptional, not the rule. If that was the case, there should be hordes of wealthy college drop-outs and those who never went (not counting the entertainment industry).

    We’re rugged individualists, dammit! But entrapment of students does not help our society in the long run – it defies financial logic.

    That it does and suggesting an alternative that won’t consign people to living a mean existence gets the dreaded “socialist” label. It does defy all kinds of logic to maintain a system of easy-to-spring financial traps that most of the population will fall into. It never helps any society, much less one that wants to be a “shining beacon of civilization and democracy” to keep so many of its own citizens screwed over by the system. Stagnation and decline are the only actual results and all the wealth the elite accumulated won’t actually protect them when the entire bag of shit hits the fan.

    Okay, I’m done ranting.

  2. Oh yeah. I owe about double what I borrowed, because I had to use my forebearances due to my ill health. It was do that and get treatment or try to make the payments, let the Lupus kill me, all while being homeless. So, ya know. I’m only able to pay anything back now because I joined the Income Based Repayment plan. They wanted almost 500 a month, but they’re getting 90. Because I currently work for the government, my loans will disappear in 10 years. (Yay public service! If my governor doesn’t cut my job.) I don’t know what program you’re in, but IBR has helped me a lot. Otherwise, I’d have defaulted.

    Thing is, we’ll be moving to Australia in a year or so. I won’t be able to work for at least a year, so my income will be nothing and I’ll owe nothing. If E makes enough month that I don’t have to work, then I won’t and I’ll never owe anything…which I find really funny, because you know, I SHOULD feel bad about that, about not having to make payments, but I don’t really, because with the way the loans are set up, I’ll NEVER be paid off. NEVER. If I wasn’t in IBR and made the payments they wanted, I’d be paying back almost 150k for a borrowed 45k. I mean…that’s insane.

    You know, I didnt plan on being sick. I didnt plan on getting a disabling disease. I only borrowed what I had to. I didnt go insane with it. But because Im sick, but not too sick to work, I can’t get any help. It’s almost impossible to get your loans discharged. You have to be completely disabled…and those are really really strict guidelines. You’re bed bound but can talk on the phone? Well, then you can actually get a job! No break for you! I mean…its crazy.

    I stopped feeling like i HAD to pay long ago. I realized how much I’d be paying for how long and I was like….no. Just no. I’ll owe money after I’m DEAD.

    And really, how will Sallie Mae find us in other countries? *sigh* That’s horrible, isn’t it? In order to have a life without the oppressive debt, we have to leave the country. That seems counter productive to me.

  3. I would suggest that one of the basic issues is the fact that the USA is not willing to invest the money necessary to attract, train, and retain high quality elementary and secondary teachers, especially in rural and urban areas.

    If our high school students were graduating with basic competence in reading and writing, they wouldn’t need to prove their literacy by having a BA.

    If we invested in reasonable vocational and professional certification programs (non-four-year) at the upper-high-school and community college levels, we could end up with a better trained workforce.

    But no. Teachers are paid poorly, and the field does not consistently attract the best suited to inspire learning. And now, at the college level, teaching is more and more being outsourced to TAs and Adjuncts who are paid very little and are then faced with huge educational gaps to fill.

    Invest more in teachers and schools from a younger age, and this problem will begin to balance out.

    Plus, of course, if students were not allowed to take out these kinds of loans, colleges might not raise tuition quite so quickly. . .

  4. It’s particularly hilarious to recall being told that, “but student loans will help you build your credit! Without them, you’ll have a hard time!”

    Ahahaha. Ahahahahahahaha.

  5. $24K in payments and you’ve only paid down $1K? Are you quite sure about that? Your pic says you’ve only been hit with $9K in additional interest from forbearances.

    I don’t doubt your financial situation is difficult…. a lot of people are facing tough times… but with numbers like those that don’t make sense, it’s hard not to take Sallie Mae’s side.

    Maybe you should post your full payment history…. or at least get a cpa friend to look it over and vet it.

  6. A (sadly) awesome insight, Natalia. I feel your pain. And THANK GOD for this post. I was almost shamed into believing I was the only one.

    I spent all last summer tussling with the bank (I was in-between contracts) and the pound-lust is unnerving. A choice quote was ‘I don’t care what you have to do to pay us, just do it. Or we’ll send the bailiffs.’

    I know my copy of Lord of the Rings is precious, but I doubt it’d make a dent in the student debts… 😉

  7. That is the most f’d up payment system I’ve ever heard of. Living in Canada I acquired about 10, 000 in debt for one year at a top school which I repaid by moving back home and working a minimum wage job ($8/hour). Then I had a nervous breakdown and failed out of school, and it took me four years to complete my fourth year, one or two classes at a time.

    The difference of course is that Canadian schools give you nowhere near the prestige of American schools (my current university department wouldn’t consider hiring anyone trained at a Canadian university). Looking at my professors I would say that the quality of intellect those schools attract, also reflected also in one’s colleagues and the overall education you get almost justifies their position. You could easily outdo my thinking any day of the week. My professors all had scholarships, though. That otherwise earning that prestige goes so heavily punished in the land of ‘rugged individualism’ … just, wow.

  8. The student loan bubble is going to burst. You’re right to pay for things that you and Lyovochka actually need. Elie Mystal, a writer at Above the Law, a blog for the legal profession, has been writing about the fucked-up state of borrowing for legal education for a while. Here’s his column on his own student loan default.

    Also, @guest: The numbers Natalia is quoting are, in fact, completely believable. The interest just keeps accruing and accruing, so one can indeed pay $23K and still wind up barely below the original principal.

  9. @joy: I’m sure it’s possible one could pay $23K and have $22K of that go to interest and penalties. I’m just saying that that doesn’t seem to jive with the screenshot. Like I said, that screenshot seems to suggest $9K.

    That, in conjunction with statements like “I regularly paid more than the minimum payment,” would suggest to me that perhaps Natalia did not understand the details of the loan restructuring or forbearance that Sallie Mae was offering to her. Such statements suggest that she expected the extra payments to pay down the principal. That they did not points to a disconnect between her expectations and those of Sallie Mae, which were knowable up front.

    I agree that Sallie Mae probably didn’t go out of its way at the time (or later) to grab her by the shoulders and say, “do you really understand how this is going to change things over the lifetime of your loan?”

    I also agree that there are arguments in favor of being able to discharge student loan debt through bankruptcy. There needs to be a way to recognize when an individual will never be able to pay off a student loan.

    Still, I haven’t yet read anything here that indicates that Sallie Mae did something illegal or unethical.

  10. Thank you for sharing your difficult story. I’m so happy that you chose to protect your baby in the end. The bankers literally hate the reproduction of life!

    Your intuition is correct: the system is rigged. Bond traders who speculate on these risk-free loans assume lifetime default rates at nearly 40%! This is well above the statistical manupulation of about 8% reported by the US government.

    Sadly, your story has become more and more common these days. This interesting account echos many of your experiences, but obviously from a different angle:

    At least there are extensive conversations starting to reach a wider audience, such as these on a recent New York radio show:

    But this has hardly penetrated the major political parties, who want to keep the status quo. Instead of fully funding higher education, along with other social services, and immediately cancelling these outrageous student debts, politicians from both parties protect the banks. This leads to terrible pressure on people along with economic stagnation.

    Since you seem to be in Russia, you also know that economic collapse can bring all kinds of changes. With global depression and the possible collapse of the eurozone, it will be a terrible mess in 2012. Good luck collecting Sallie Mae!

  11. This is a terrible time we are living in, and I don’t think we have begun to see the worst of it. You need to take care of the most important things and leave the rest to take care of themselves. There comes a time when you have to accept that there is something you can’t do, you can’t pay it back. What can’t be done can’t be done. You can only do what you can for those who are the most important.

  12. Of course! Sallie Mae and the student debt industry do nothing illegal! Their right to abuse their customers is enshrined in law – that’s the whole point of my post.

    Setting up a payment plan with them, I was told that I would have the chance to hit at the principal – no problem. In reality, that has not turned out to be the case, and looking back on it, I’m not even sure that their representative knew what she was talking about. I was told how much I’d pay out over time with minimum payments, that’s not a problem, it was all right there in the payment plan. And there were no penalties. None.

  13. Actually, ironically enough, my husband actually *did* have to take out a small ($5000) student loan for graduate school for the sole purpose of building a credit history.

    He’d won full scholarship to college (lucky, lucky, man) and didn’t use credit cards. He had NO credit history, which could have been a big problem getting an apartment or buying a coop (as we are doing now). The only reason he had any credit at all was his father’d gotten him a card on his own account because he couldn’t get a credit card on his own. He’d saved too much money from his work during high school & college, bought a car with cash, and had no college loans. Therefore no one would give him credit!

    Now his credit history predates his birth.

    Isn’t it a screwed up system that actively punishes people for saving money and paying upfront? Or for winning merit scholarships?

  14. They really don’t care if you ever pay back the principal. They make their living on the interest and fees. They wanted you to borrow, made it easy and attractive, and they did it as a trap. This is what makes it immoral. All you did was have confidence in the future, a future which they have wrecked for you, and now you are in their “payment plan” trap. They lied and cheated and deceived which makes the situation no longer a moral obligation for you, but just a practical one in which you have the right to decide in your own self interest.

    As for the legal obligations, I don’t see how they are ever going to make good on their threats to take people’s wages and social security. There will be a real middle-class uprising, and the doctors and lawyers will be carrying the flags. Threatening to collect and collecting are two separate things. Just keep their letters in a shoe box and screen your calls with an answering machine.

    The credit industry considers their great genius the guy who invented the low minimum monthly payment. Convention lenders said it makes no sense to make the payment so low that debtors would never pay the loan back. He said, “That’s the point! We don’t want them to pay it back. We want them to pay the interest forever.”

  15. My brother recently told me he came out of school $6000 in student loans. Two years later, after making all payments and making all on time, his student loan bill was $8000. What a racket!
    As a footnote, we do now have debtors prison, particularly for the poor and people of color.
    …works like this: you can’t pay debt. Company X sues you. Court grants judgement against you. Orders you to pay X amount. If you’d had the money you would have paid it in the first place. So you still don’t pay….back to court. Now you are found in contempt of court and that carries a 30-90 day sentence, depending on which side of bed the judge got up on that morning.

  16. @joy
    ‘Guest’ is just mansplaining how she couldn’t possibly be right. To agree with Natalia you have to first believe that she’s an intelligent and truthful person. He has insinuated she’s a liar but he is flat out telling her she can’t possibly understand her own financial situation even as she thoroughly explains it. The screen shot fits perfectly with her explanation.

  17. My life has been been ruined by my inability to repay my student loans. I went to school to get an education to make my life better and found soon after graduation that I’d be saddled with a long term virtually unpayable debt. I defaulted when I lost my job (layoff) because it simply came down to a choice between eating and paying on the loan interest (I’d already gone through a period of forbearance).

    To be honest, I’d contemplated suicide on many occasions. The only thing that really prevented me was the thought of how much it would hurt my family.

    The choice to get an education when I was young, idealistic, and optimistic has turned into a total nightmare.

  18. I’ve had my student loans in deferment since I graduated six years ago. The minimum monthly payment they want from me is $250.00, which just isn’t possible with my wages and supporting a family of four on my own. I don’t foresee a future in which this is ever possible, much less the future where my payment increases to $500 a month for the last ten years of repayment.

    Yeah, thirty years of repayment for an undergraduate degree. Today I owe more than $10,000 more than I did the day I graduated. I’m hard-pressed to see myself voluntarily taking on this payment ever.

  19. No one made you sign the loan contract–for a DUKE education in JOURNALISM. You knew what you were signing, and now you blame “the system.” Looks like that ivy league education didn’t take.

  20. Thank you for posting this on alternet. I don’t think that I will be participating in the conversation there, because I have an allergy to contentious issues and flame wars (they really do upset me, and all day long when I get into one) but I think your post is very, very important and should go viral.

    I am going to promote it again, both on my facebook page and on twitter, etc. I wish it would reach the ears that need to hear it. I’m trying to follow the conversation you’ve generated there so far. Very curious.

  21. That’s insane. I had no idea. In the UK we can get student loans. They are run by one govt sponsored agency. Interest tracks inflation rates and nothing more. And you don’t start/need to pay it back until you are earning a certain amount, which is a fairly decent graduate wage. Plus, I think if your income dips below that again, you can stop paying. Without paying a default fee or whatever. And there are limits on how much you can take out.

    I thought the US was the same, albeit with the need to pay the full tuition fees, which we don’t. Yet. Although we are getting there. Good grief, that’s a screwed up system.

    Do you know what with that and the totally nutjob health insurance nonsense, Russia, of all places, looks considerably better to live in than the US. And I think I am going to have to stop moaning about the UK.

  22. I read this on Feministe and thought “oh my god this is my story.” I went to college, went on to get a Master’s degree, and now I’m lucky enough to have my dream job…BUT…I work for a non profit, public interest group. I’m doing everything I was supposed to, I’m giving back, but at the end of the day, I’m so worried about my finances it’s suffocating. And by the time I finish paying off my loans I will have paid something like $80,000. Double what I paid for my education. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  23. I know the system is crazy, but I don’t get your numbers. You paid $9K in interest, $2K in in principal and…$13K in what? Fees?

    Or is that further $13K also interest, and the $9K listed is what’s actually been added to the loan?

    I believe that SM has got you completely snookered here, I’m just having trouble with the math…

  24. What’s the annual interest rate on your loans? It looked to me like 5%, but I’m not sure I interpreted the screenshot correctly.

  25. Aigh, gotcha. I was under the impression that it’s illegal to create a payment plan under which interest accrues faster than payments, but that may be limited to the consumer credit/credit card industry.

    My wife is staring at 6 figures of student debt by the time she leaves secondary education and goes into medicine. It’s truly a terrifying behemoth – my sympathy to you.

  26. The interest rate varies by loans. And it’s also variable in general. Like, in 2008, when the economy tanked, my minimum payments shrunk by a bit.

    Let’s kill the behemoth. Kill it with fire.

  27. Can you give me an idea of the average?

    Anyway, I think you should default. Don’t look at is as a shameful failure in life, look at it as you doing your part to help blow a giant fucking hole in Sallie Mae’s books and bring it to ruin.

  28. I’m really scared about the consequences, but right now, I don’t have a choice. It’s either that or not make payments on my consolidated government loans – which actually do go back to the community, in some fashion.

    Right now it’s between roughly 5 & 8. Was as high as 14 at first.

  29. ” I don’t know if there is a clear explanation for why we have ended up with this system in the first place.”

    It’s really perfectly clear. The GI Bill led to the mass-marketing of higher education. In the decades that followed, politicians (at the behest of various activist groups, businesses and constituencies) plowed enormous amounts of easy money into the higher ed system. It came to be a virtual entitlement to the middle class. (Gloss over for the moment the problem of mistaking the markers of middle-classness for it’s causes). Higher ed is good! So more money! Nobody wanted be the meanie bear who cuts spending for aid to college students. So you have a situation where huge amounts of easy money are available for the purchase of a good, and relatively little of the cost is being borne by the purchaser of said good at the time of the sale. This is a recipe for rampant price inflation in ANY market. The prices skyrocket, which is used as justification for more easy money in order to make it more “affordable.” This easy money pushes prices up again. Rinse, repeat. It’s not unlike what happened in the housing market.

  30. The system is so messed up! Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are NOT the only one. I am $46,000k in debt and will never pay it off because the economy is such a piece of shit and there are no jobs. I’ve thought about killing myself many times because of my student loan debt; sadly, it will most likely happen as well. FUCK YOU SALIE MAE!!! FUCK YOU!!!!!!!

  31. I recently left my job (I was miserable, HATED what I was doing) and decided to live off of my savings for a few months and find a new position.. something I saw a future in and in an environment I was both proud of and enthusiastic about. I recently landed something new, thank god, but was hitting a rough patch and called Sallie to see what my options were for a sort of deferral. They kindly told me that for 150$ I could give me self a three month break, and not pay anything. Then the lady on the phone told me casually that the interest that would accrue on my account in that time period was nearly 1,700$. I thought I had misheard her, so I asked her to repeat it. She confirmed that, oh yes, in the three coming months I will accrue 1,700$ in interest. I asked her why the rate was so high, if I was freezing my account, and taking a three month ‘breather’. this is when I realized just how totally f*&ked I am. Somehow for the first time ever, I realized that that was the normal amount of interest for a quarter.. and that I am paying over 5 grand a year in interest alone. Divided by 12 months.. thats the minimum payment I’ve been making — one that does not indicate it is an interest only payment. Now I understand I should have realized this before, but somehow I was under the impression that I was making my minimum payments, plus a bit, and that eventually I was going to take some serious money off my balance. NOT TRUE. As I do not see myself making upwards of 5 or 6 grand a month anytime soon, I am going to be paying this until I am in my mid 30’s, at the very least. I hate this system, I hate the people who led us to believe this was good for us, and I most of all hate myself for having gone along with it when I was young and naive. I find it horrifying that the only advice I have for people who are graduating from high school (and i’m only 24!) is think twice about getting an education, really. Its not all its cracked up to be, and hey, you may end up crying yourself to sleep and having a bank account balance of 0 at an age when you should be enjoying life and loving being young and free.

    America is broken, and I dont know if we can fix it.

  32. I feel guilty all the time that I chose to get an art degree with some student loans. I thought my internships and volunteer work would lead to an administrative job in the art industry, was told that I had an excellent resume, but nobody has the money to hire me. Now I find myself torn between enjoying the intellectual and technical benefits of my education and wishing I had chosen something that would have led more directly to a regularly-paying career. This even though I know no-one is getting hired and I’d likely be in the same boat regardless of my degree. I’m terrified of what is going to happen when I can’t make my payments.

    It’s funny how public or smaller colleges and universities can’t afford to give us decent educations, cutting classes and whole programs right and left, but students still can’t afford to go to school without assistance of some variety–be it scholarships, loans, or parental. My Dad remembers being able to pay for his university tuition with summer jobs. It seems obvious that money is bleeding out of this system but as long as Washington and the financial sector are holding hands, policy makers won’t be concerned with ethics or even efficiency.

  33. And entry-level jobs don’t take into account that someone may have huge student debt payments to keep up with. It’s just ridiculous – salaries have not gone up by much, yet the entire system has shifted beneath people’s feet in the meantime.

  34. As much as I understand your frustration with the injustice in the education/financial system, I have to say that I find the now common comparison of debt to enslavement really offensive. Comparing the debt you are in to the history of slavery and the suffering people had to endure is just wrong.

  35. JR, you’re right. Slavery takes on many forms throughout history – indentured serfs in Russia spring to mind immediately. A lot of them had homes and property and yet they were also bound to their overlords – which is what I think about when I think of the current debt problem and health care problem in the U.S. . The phrase “slave to the system” has been around for a long time, however, and I don’t know about that – on one hand, it clearly dilutes the historic meaning of slavery.

  36. This is idiotic a person from Duke should have no trouble paying back $37k in student loans. You should of been able to pay that back 1 year out of school if you really wanted to. Its not that hard to get a $50k/year job out of duke or more. Live frugally for a year or two and you would easily have that paid back.

    Its your life decisions that put you in that predicament. Sometimes we have to make decisions in life for financial reasons and not what we want.

  37. My sympathy really goes out you. In my understanding, student loans are financed like revolving debt: interest accrues on the unpaid balance until this balance is paid in full. So unlike a mortgage, you can easily pay thousands of dollars without decreasing the principal.

    It’s a racket and you are a victim of exploitation and bad luck. I hope something changes so that you don’t need to default, as the consequences are very damaging. But like you said, you can’t pay what you don’t have, and I for one don’t believe you should have acted any differently based on your expectations at the time you incurred these loands.

  38. I’m not going to respond to Sean’s comment. I am just going to bask in its specialness.

    Also, student debt IS a racket. Higher ed is kind of headed in that direction in general, sadly. And I say that as someone who has, once again, had a good career coming out of Duke.

  39. It IS our decision. But the decision is made with few legitimate alternatives. Any office career requires a 4 year degree. These degrees are very expensive. We took out loans expecting to make enough to pay them back. And many of us don’t.

    And honestly, 37k for *DUKE* is d*mn good. I have friends who owe twice that for much less prestigious schools. The more we fear our own success is due to luck, the more we blame the unlucky for their fate.

  40. @Sean

    In the current economy, a degree from an elite school does not necessarily guarantee any employment at all. Natalia Antonova has actually risen very quickly on her career track and paid over $23,000 to reduce her student loan debt. So Natalia has achieved probably more than most recent graduates in reducing her debt.

    But, as others in this thread have noted, the student loan industry is a predatory operation working hand-in-glove with college financial advisers. College advisers who should be dissuading students from taking on non-dischargeable debt are instead colluding with lenders to ensure an income stream for colleges.

    Prospective student borrowers needed to be warned that non-dischargeable debt can last a lifetime, especially in the current economy. Alternatives need to be found for funding tuition.

  41. Natalia, you are brave and awesome for talking about this so publicly and purposefully. The system is deeply fucked up, but you have your priorities straight, and you seem upbeat. My heart goes out to those who have come to feel suicide is the only way out. Take care of you and yours as best you can, keep talking about this, and hang in there. ((internet hugs))

  42. No one forced you to take the money.
    No one forced you to go to college.

    You made those decisions, you pay the money back.

    Be an adult.

  43. It’s also idiotic to suggest that college is this thing one just chooses on a whim, out of a myriad options available. Considering the fact that the wage gap between those who do go to college and those who do not is only getting huger. I guess “being an adult” means living in a fantasy world that may have been slightly more relevant decades ago. You know, before the economy was run into the ground.

  44. Worst mistake I ever made was listening to a high-school guidance counselor pushing college on every student. $99,000 left to be paid, $30,000 in interest so far, high point was $103,000, 10 years after leaving school I just started to get it going in the right direction.

    18 year old’s can’t legally drink because they are not smart enough yet. Why would they be smart enough to be able to judge whether they can take on $100,000 in debt responsibly. Noone knows as a first year what they will be doing when they graduate, much less how much they will be making. It is absurd to think an adult could make this decision properly all the time (they don’t), so why allow kids to screw themselves before their financial lives really start.

  45. If you’re looking for sympathy it’s not a good start to mislead people about how you got into your situation. The sad thing about your story is actually not about your situation in particular but actually it’s how few people are financially literate enough to call B.S. on your story. A few people did but that apparently was “mansplaining”. It seems that it’s a bad thing to be financially literate and to explain finances and loan repayment schedules.

    My GF fell into a similar trap with student loans by not being financially aware. Before she met me she consolidated her loans and ended up with a 20yr repayment plan instead of the original 10yr she thought she had. After many years of paying the 20yr schedule she wondered why the balance was not coming down. Very much to her credit she decided to educated herself and realized her mistake. She started with about 30k and just recently finished paying it off.

  46. What? As I said – the payment plan is kind of part of the problem here. You’re encouraged to bring down your lower monthly payments – after all, it’s responsible, should you not have enough cash in a given month. But you’re also told that overpaying on them every month is a solid plan. Except not!

    I don’t need “sympathy” from some asshole like you anyway – I need more people to realize that consumer protection for these loans needs to be brought back.

    Then we can start rethinking higher ed.

  47. Let me guess… the person who gave you this advice:

    “You’re encouraged to bring down your lower monthly payments – after all, it’s responsible, should you not have enough cash in a given month.”

    also must have been the one who told you to defer payments which is why you ended up adding 9k to your debt.

    I’m totally with you as far as the ridiculous price of higher education but your story is not an example of the need for consumer protection for student loans.

  48. Interest on these loans begins accruing while you are still in school – and work-study is not enough to pay them off.

    And I don’t give a crap if someone doesn’t think I’m the perfect poster girl for why this is a problem. It’s a problem a lot of different people are stuck with – the common denominator is an abusive system that has gotten way out of control. I’m sure that if my life is ruined by student debt, a bunch of people will sit back and say, “Bitch deserved it. Went to Duke and then had the temerity to get sick while in repayment. Well, screw her” – but that just goes to show how fucked up our society is in general in regards to lending and financial solvency. People are “tainted” by bad debt, so we scramble to explain why they’re really at fault until a more “deserving” victim comes along.

    The truth is, it’s not up to anyone else to judge who “deserves” what.

  49. Natalia,

    You are blaming everyone for your predicament except for yourself.

    You made the poor decision of going to a school that you couldn’t afford. That is called “living beyond your means”. What’s the difference between going to Duke, when you can’t afford it, and buying an expensive car that you also can’t afford? It certainly wasn’t Sallie Mae that pushed you into going to Duke, that was you and the mistaken belief that going to Duke would be worth the money. You were the one that made the choice, and you were wrong.

    The next mistake you made was choosing a career that wouldn’t pay you enough to pay for your student loan. Again, this is a mistake that you made. Sallie Mae didn’t force you to choose your career.

    The third mistake you made was burying your head in the sand when it came down to figuring out how much you would have to pay over the course of your student loan. Again, this is a mistake that you made. The numbers are all spelled out for you. It’s basic math. There’s no fine print. If you’re given a loan amount, an interest rate, and a term, you know exactly how much you will be paying. You could easily do the calculations yourself to figure out, “is this something I can afford?” Either you deluded yourself into thinking you could, or you didn’t bother to do the math. This is your fault.

    Basically your predicament is based on a series of mistakes you have made. You are everyone else but yourself for choosing to go to Duke, even though you and your family couldn’t afford it, for choosing a career that wouldn’t pay the bills, and for not fully understanding the consequences of taking on a student loan that you couldn’t afford.

  50. Actually, when I got into Duke, my parents’ finances were more than fine.

    And I have a great career. Probably way better than yours. As I’ve pointed out, if it wasn’t for the costs of health care, I’d probably continue being Sallie Mae’s little cash cow.

    If you think that state schools are some sort of panacea for lower-income people, or people whose finances go south, you really ought to think again. In general, trying to ghettoize lower-income people by segregating them in state schools, while only the rich go to the top schools is only going to perpetuate the continually growing gap between rich and poor. If you think our society needs *more* inequality, so that uppity students don’t get ahead of themselves – you’ve really lost the plot.

  51. Boy, for someone who can’t afford to pay back a $40k student loan, it doesn’t sound like your career is that great.

    I grew up in a middle-middle class household, and I’ve *never* lived beyond my means, ever. This includes going to a state college my family could afford, even though I had the marks to go to Stanford or Caltech. I worked throughout college, got summer intern jobs, and left school with no debt. I’ve never had any substantial debt since graduating from college.

    Despite me going to a “ghettoized” state college, I currently make in the low 6 figures and my after-tax savings every year (not including 401k) is more than your entire student loan. So, now that I think about it, no, your career isn’t way better than mine.

    Natalia, you need to come to grips with the fact that you yourself made a series of poor decisions. It’s okay, no one is infallible. Once you have accepted this fact, maybe you can stop blaming other people for your poor decisions.

  52. Stage college guy, you can go fuck yourself, you self-righteous ass. Most of my relatives went to state schools and guess what, student debt is a huge problem for most of them. Entry-level jobs are not designed for people entering the workforce with student debt — just face it, dipshit.

    In general the commenters on this thread just don’t want to admit that in this country, in this point in time, most people are one misstep or one serious illness away from total financial ruin. Trust me, I see it happen up close and personal.

    My stepfather was just like you people. The “you can work hard and have a good living in this country, no problem” kind of guy. The guy who thought that bad debt only happened to bad people. He co-signed a relatively small loan for his youngest (at a state school! Of course). They were planning to sell their house at that point, move into a smaller place, real think-ahead type people, now that the kids have all grown up. Guess what? The property turned out to have issues that rendered it pretty much worthless. They took it to court. Imagine the lawyer fees, and this is right around the time my aging mother started developing health problems that insurance didn’t want to pay for.

    Long story short – by the time my stepfather died of a heart attack, he was lucky not to be homeless. Living on his sister’s couch. And still refusing to admit that something is fucked-up with our country.

    Maybe people can start waking up? Is it too much to hope for?

  53. Despite me going to a “ghettoized” state college, I currently make in the low 6 figures and my after-tax savings every year (not including 401k) is more than your entire student loan. So, now that I think about it, no, your career isn’t way better than mine.

    How do you know how much she makes or has made? And how do you know how much of that went towards trying to fix her ailing health? Or is getting sick a “poor decision” as well?

    The lenders and the big banks all count on people like you to carry water for them. But they won’t be there to bail you out should anything go wrong.

    Wake the hell up, you self-assured idiot.

  54. The bottom line is, I don’t care if you pay off your student loan, or if you decide to default. You know what the consequences are to defaulting, and if you decide to accept it, then that’s fair. I don’t think it’s moral or immoral to default on your debt. A student loan is a contract that you have made with your lender, and the consequences for default are well defined, so it’s something that both parties should be okay with.

    What I can’t stand is someone blaming other people for their own poor decisions. Don’t blame Sallie Mae for you living beyond your means. If your family could afford to pay for Duke, and then the circumstances changed, then the smart thing to do would be to step back, do the math, and figure out if staying at Duke is the right decision. You chose poorly, and now you are suffering the consequences.

    It was your decision to stay, Sallie Mae didn’t force you. You didn’t properly think through your decision. Suck it up, accept that it’s your fault, move on, and stop blaming other people.

  55. Nat… Feel free to delete this comment if I wind up revealing too much about your personal situation and your family… But I am about to blow my fucking top here….

    State college guy, shut. the fuck. up. You’re talking to someone from an immigrant family, who has spared no expense in helping out her relatives when times got tough for them. Who put her own health on the line for others….. Who ended up needing surgical intervention while underinsured and with her health so bad she could have died. Someone who lent me money while I was going through a crisis of my own. You’re right, she only has herself to blame for rescuing others, now that her own back against the wall.

    Smug, self-righteous piece-of-crap people such as yourself make me sick. You’re the real reason why America is going to the dogs. You will cheer on the bail-outs for the big banks, the expensive wars, and you will cheer on when your own neighbors get evicted from their homes.

    Take your “education” and shove it where the sun don’t shine. You have learned nothing.

  56. @Lal: sorry, but I don’t classify giving birth as “ailing health”. Don’t confuse the issues here. She had the money to pay for medical care, but she refused to, because she wanted to pay for her student loan. I suggest re-reading what she wrote.

    As well, if you re-read what I wrote, my point isn’t about whether or not low-income people are struggling in the US. Of course they are, with 16% unemployment and rising health care costs. If you read more carefully, you’ll realize that I didn’t touch upon that subject at all.

    What I did write is that Natalia’s problems are of her own making, based on her poor decisions. She’s says herself she’s not low-income, but she can’t afford to pay her student loans. She took on debt that she couldn’t pay for, and now she’s suffering the consequences, but she’s blaming Sallie Mae and the “system” for putting herself in this predicament. I’m saying, no, it’s not the system, it’s her.

  57. Can you read? Are you capable of processing the words that are put in front of you before you decide to comment on other people’s financial issues? Has your vaunted state education helped you develop these skills?

    It’s right there in the comment to you, you brainwashed moron. She skimmed on healthcare when she could. Now she no longer can. Because she could die, not that she is spelling it out, seeing as she probably doesn’t need pity from fucking idiots such as yourself.

    Who’s going to help raise her child if she is gone? You? You damn pathetic loser, hiding behind your computer blasting other’s “poor decisions.” Let me guess, you’re older and still under the impression that student debt is affordable or that some vestiges of consumer protection remain. If you’re younger and know all of these things, you don’t have a damn excuse.

    Bet you are jealous. Deep inside, you don’t want to see people who “go above their station.” So you castigate them at their lowest. It’s pathetic and transparent.

    And go fuck yourself.

  58. @Lal, unfortunately, you are angrily assuming too much about me. I am sickened by every single bail out, and I support OWS. I’ve helped several of my friends survive through foreclosures of their homes that dropped by > 50%. I think Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be put on trial for crimes against humanity, etc. I believe in universal health care, and I think Obama betrayed the country when he didn’t go far enough to keep his promises for hope and change. I will be affected if he increases taxes of families that make over $250k/yr, but I’m fine with that, since I have benefited greatly from living in the US. So no, I’m not a Republican. I’m a firm centrist in my political beliefs but am leaning left after how the Republicans have behaved over the past 10 years.

    But I also believe very firmly that people should accept responsibility for their own actions. If there was a genuine predatory nature in the story that was told in the article, I would sympathize, and there certainly are plenty of situations where that is the case. But that’s not what I read in the article. You may be privy to information outside of the article, but from the article, all it states is that she decided to pay her student loans and forego paying medical costs for her pregnancy, even though she had the money. This put her life, and the life of her child, in jeopardy, but there is no mention of any other subsequent medical issues that put her deeper in debt.

    I’m glad that her pregnancy seems to have went well and her child is healthy. But hypothetically and God forbid, if a medical issue did arise during her pregnancy and the health of her baby had suffered, would that have been Sallie Mae’s and the system’s fault, or hers? I believe that it would have been hers.

  59. To clarify, I mean if she suffered further financial issues because she chose to pay student debt over medical insurance.

  60. No, you believe that people who “get ahead of themselves” should be punished. This is what it’s really all about, and it’s very much transparent.

    There is no consumer protection for student debt. This is why people skim on healthcare to keep from defaulting. It’s why people risk their lives. They are cornered. No one “plans” to have family finances destroyed, or health to suffer while they’re still young, or a myriad of other problems that arise and send people straight into poverty.

    You’re talking about someone who paid faithfully into this system even after going abroad. Most people don’t do that…..they know they’re screwed from the start, so why bother??

    It’s you who assumes things. If your cushy financial situation ever becomes not-so-cushy, don’t be surprised if people come after you, guns blazing. You, the idiot and the irresponsible fool. No one deserves it. My stepfather didn’t. But he was also fond of harping on about “irresponsibility” to relative strangers.

  61. Well, I certainly don’t plan on dying any time soon if I can help it! I assume responsibility for myself and my family – that’s kind of the point of this entire piece.

    I am willing to accept the consequences of a default, should it come down that. But the idea that student debt default should henceforth ruin my life? I am not willing to accept that – for myself and for anybody else. And yet this is what happens, because there is no consumer protection.

    I want consumer protection for these loans back. And will apologize for nothing.

  62. As a long-time reader of this blog, I am amazed by some of the ignorance displayed in the comments to this post. Boy, are you people out-of-touch.

    Let’s face it, todays generation is paying for OUR mistakes. And they’re getting it from ALL sides. State education? Not good enough and stuch with loans. Private education? Stuck with loans, ready to be eviscerated by self-righteous know-it-alls for revealing they’re human beings with human problems. No education? Shit out of luck from the beginning.

    State college guy, I’ve got a niece who went to a good state school in California. Then she was unemployed for over a year. Then underemployed. Then she was laid off (her colleagues who went to Stanford didn’t suffer the same fate). Now she’s in default. You know what girls like her get told nowadays, right? “Your degree lacks prestige.”

    My eldest daughter “lived beyond her means.” She accepted daddy’s help in going to a private college. Now he’s abroad with wife number 2, and she’s struggling to pay it all back on an entry-level salary. They’ve got her up against the wall, and it may be time to cut her losses and move abroad. If I didn’t become partially disabled, I would help out, but now I am stuck watching helplessly.

    You make the big bucks – there, there, clearly you don’t pat yourself on the back often enough – but fail to see the actual picture, what these young people are facing. So maybe your career isn’t so great after all, if it has allowed you to be this ignorant. Money is nothing to boast about, in the end, if you can be this foolish. Or maybe you still have a giant chip on your shoulder because you didn’t go to Stanford. Hey! I went there! Didn’t save me from trouble in this life. Maybe you can come over to my falling-apart house and gloat at me next.

    Enjoy your comfortable existence, if it lasts.

  63. State schools will not keep your loan amounts down necessarily. I went to a state school, one of the most affordable in my state (Louisiana) and I took out about 40k in loans to get my BA and MA. My family could pay nothing toward my education because we were poor. We were frakking Louisiana poor. I got a full Pell, plus scholarships and I still needed to take out loans. Thing is, if I’d been able to find a well paying job, I could have paid those loans off. They wanted about $400 a month. That’s steep, but I could have done it with a better paying job.

    Except. I got sick. Very very sick. Chronically sick with an illness that limits my ability to work. I STILL work. Full time, sometimes over 40 hours a week. I have for 13 years, since I graduated. But because of my illness, I can’t do the jobs that would pay me more. I simply can’t because to do so would put me in the hospital. So, I work at my state job and pay back what I can. To give you an idea of how bad things are for me, right now I’m paying back $60 a month, thanks to the Income Based Repayment plan. If I stay here and work for the state for another seven years, my balance will go away. POOF.

    Of course, I probably won’t be here for that much longer. My partner and I can’t really survive on my wage much longer, not with the rising cost of medical care and our assorted medical needs. (Yeah, she’s working too. Part time, which is all she can find.) So, we’re going to move back to her home country next year.

    The system IS screwed up. I knew I’d have to pay back my loans. I wanted to do that. But for years I couldn’t pay anything and had to have it deferred. (Because my illness could kill me and I wasn’t willing to die in order to pay back Sallie Mae.) Because of ONE loan date, I didn’t qualify to have the government pick up the loan interest while I couldn’t pay, so all that amount added to my principal. Despite the fact that they agreed I was poor enough to qualify for the interest to NOT be added. Because ONE of my loans orginated before the cut off date by one month.

    Right now, if I paid according to the payment plan they have for me, I’ll pay back over $100k. For a $40K loan! THAT is messed up.

    When we get to Oz, I’ll keep paying, as I can. Lucky for me, because of the terms of the Income Based Repayment plan, when I have no income (which I won’t for at least a year, because I won’t be allowed to work and my partner isn’t required to pay US taxes cause she’s not American) I won’t have to pay anything…and I’ll still be credited for that year. As in, it’ll still go toward the amount of time before the loans disappear. (Seriously, if you have loans and are having trouble, go to IBR.ORG and see if you qualify. You’ll have to specifically ask Sallie Mae about it, because they do NOT volunteer any info about the program. Because it’s reasonable and cuts into their profits.)

    So, you know, call me what you want to. I’m poor, despite a decent education and over a decade of job experience, not because I made a bad decision but because of an illness I had no say in. And I’ll pay them 60 bucks a year until I don’t have to pay anything. But I’m not going to break myself trying to pay unreasonable amounts. When the loan payment is more than your rent, it’s too fucking much.

  64. Lal, you are bloody awesome. And thank you for finally bringing up the fact that college degrees are essentially branded and that make all the difference in the workplace and careers. Going to Ivy Leagues is just as much about networking for the future. Going to any other school simply does not give us certain opportunities. I was told point blank by a professor that I probably wouldn’t be able to pursue an academic career in the future in my field UNLESS I went to one of the Ivy Leagues or certain western European schools (Oxbridge, the Sorbonne) for my master’s and doctorate. Sure enough, looking at the faculty of professors not only at my school but others teaching the subject I’d want to…yeah, she wasn’t lying.

    But perhaps I will have made more than enough money being an art dealer to pay for that Ivy League education so that I can become a professor in my later years.

  65. I avoid internet chatter about the victims of the student debt industry. It amounts to self-punishment.

    But as a high school teacher, I am thankful for some of the comments here. When my students need a quick primer on what the hell is wrong with our country, I’ll know where to look.

    The people who looked the other way as consumer rights were stripped away and education was corporatized come out in droves to blast a young mother for trying to do right by her child. If you want to talk “blame,” look in the mirror. You were the ones to betray her generation.

    You soaked up the benefits of a booming economy – and want to humiliate and intimidate those who are forced to pick up the pieces now that political apathy and corporate greed have taken things a step too far.

    “Public education” is a concept that has gone out the window. “Private education” mostly benefits kids who already have trust funds and connections. Financial aid offices are in on the scam with the lenders. It’s the reality my students live with when they graduate, and I also could afford to ignore it for long. Now it’s a problem I’ve been educating myself about. Too little, too late, I guess.

  66. All of this rings, terribly, terribly true. State College Guy I won’t attack you, but I will say that you should count your blessings.

    Like Natalia, I grew up in a poor and was a first generation college student. All my life people told me that I was smart. They told me I should go to college, and if I did, I would live better than my parents did.

    I went to a state college, just like state college guy did, but my parents couldn’t contribute one thin dime to my education or my living expenses. I worked part-time and I got a few grants and scholarships, but mostly I had to take loans. Unlike Natalia, I was lucky enough to get mostly federally subsidized loans. When I graduated in 2000, I owed $23,000, and found a job making $12 an hour.

    Eventually I decided that a higher degree would make me more competitive in the job market. So I went back to that state college and got an MS. As a graduate student I didn’t qualify for any grants, so when I graduated into the worst economy in decades, I now owed $58,000. That was nearly five years ago. I’ve now worked my way up to earning $16 an hour. And, I would like to point out, I started out at $11.25, and was hired specifically because of my advanced degree.

    I was also lucky enough to be able to apply for income based repayments. The loan company that administers my federal loan decided this year that my income was so low, my “income based payment” is zero. Great right?

    Well, actually, not so much. It is great being employed and having health insurance and being able to pay my medical bills after having a premature baby who lived in intensive care for six weeks. It’s also great being able to eat, pay rent, etc. I’m very grateful for all of that.

    But here’s the downside: my loans are growing. On top of that American Education Services (my student loan company) reports my loan to creditors as though I was on a ten-year loan length. So on paper, I owe more than I earn every month. That means my husband and I continue to share our beat up old Honda Accord with 200,000+ miles on it. I hold my breath every time I get in to drive the 30 miles one way to work each day.

    I hate to say it, but I regret going to college. Seriously. I would be doing a lot better financially if I’d just skipped it and got a nice receptionist job. Would I be living up to my full potential? Maybe not, but I also wouldn’t have had the sleepless nights that I’ve had over the past five years.

    I just told my niece, who is 14, that her best bet at this stage in the game is to get really good at a trade, or learn a foreign language because I can’t tell her what everybody told me: that a college education is the path to a better life.

    Natalia, I’m sorry that you’re struggling with Sallie Mae and I’m glad you’ve chosen to put your health first.

  67. I look forward, reluctantly but confidently, to the stories of parental suicides to pay off student loans for kids. Step in front of a bus at the crosswalk and voila, a big chunk of principal gets paid back. This is an obligation of the current older generation and will make good on the screwing that we gave the younger ones.

    The system, as it is, must be gotten over. I have sold my real estate to pay for my son’s undergraduate education. For grad school I have the accidental death all mapped out. First, of course, I will max out the $30k credit line on my Visa since that debt dies with me.

  68. Natalia

    The title of this post alone made my day. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. Thank you for sharing. Have a lovely evening.

    From Portland, OR

    Josh von Kuster

  69. The big problem is that universities are allowed to only offer assessment for their qualifications to people who have also bought other services from them. If the assessment and the tuition were kept separate, like a driving test is kept separate from driver training, the cost of tuition would go down to very much less than it currently is.
    And those people who do not need mollycoddling through academic programmes wouldn’t need to pay for it at all. they could get everything they need from other sources.
    The university system is neither more nor less than a giant Ponzi scheme.

  70. Here is what you should have done- gone to a local community/junior college and then to an in-state school for the last 2 years. My two years at community college were completely covered by FAFSA/Pell Grant. It even covered the books. I have zero student debt and am much happier.

  71. I support anyone who was able to get a cheap education – in a corporatized society, cheap education is *the point*. But I’m not going to be shamed about going to Duke, because this guilt-tripping reinforces a pretty dangerous notion at this point in time: if you believe that the top schools are only “for the rich,” or that humanities majors are also “for the people with trust funds,” then you are basically supporting further stratification of our society, and further erosion of the middle class, whether you realize it or not. The gap between the rich and poor is big enough – and growing bigger.

    Now, should we have elite schools in the first place? That’s a question worth discussing, I think. I want a more level playing field when it comes to education, ultimately. I hate the “gated community” mentality the top schools suffer from.

  72. I honestly thought I was the worst of the worst, one of the most foolish people walking this green earth for allowing a situation like this to develop.

    I was fortunate enough to get a job at the school I got my Bachelor’s from, and so am not paying for my Master’s if I can keep my job. But I had no savings to pay for a Bachelor’s and my full time job salary was just enough to support me and my unemployed mother these last 7 years. My student loans will be tipping just over the 100K mark by the time I graduate with my Master’s.

    I wouldn’t dare ask for my principal to be reduced or forgiven – I don’t think the education was worth it, but I understand that I agreed to pay that money back regardless of what it’s doing for me. What I’m havng trouble accepting is that the money I’m going to scrimp and save to pay these loan payments is not going towards paying back what I owe. That money is only going to line the pocket of a company whose wallet’s already swollen through DAILY accruing interest. I just want the majority of what I pay to go towards my principal debt.

    I am depressed when I think of the future. It seems like I’ll never have enough money to save for retirement, to have a family, to take vacations. I’ll be living paycheck to paycheck for most of my life, or working around the clock to have extra money (no time or energy to do anything with that extra money, mind you). I didn’t realize in high school that expecting to have one full time job pay for my living expenses and student debt would be like expecting to see a unicorn. I’m truly at a loss.

  73. I am planning on studying in my home country…The “socialist state” of Denmark. Not only is education free for eu citizens, as a danish citizen I am given a monthly allowance for rent and food, etc.

    I am not saying this to rub it in anyones face, sorry if it seems like I am bragging.

    I find this decidedly American system of overly competitive and incredibly overpriced schools absurd.

  74. I don’t think you’re bragging at all. In fact, you’ve given the exact reason why I want to raise any future children I may have in such a system. What we have here in America is based too much on exclusion and that is not healthy for any country that wants to continue to grow and thrive.

  75. Wow! I’m so grateful I found your blog. I am in the exact same boat except I owe quite a bit more. I am at my wits end and like you am ready for drastic measures. I asked each of my lenders what the default steps are and was informed eventually they will sell the debt to a third party. Does this make them not student loans?? Would that mean I could file bankruptcy? How much I your wages can they garnish? As it stands right now, I owe one full paycheck per month to pay my student loans and where I live I actually make pretty good money. 😦

  76. Third party still means they’re student loans. They’re student loands until the day we die, non dischargeable in bankruptcy – unless Congress gets smart, that is. I don’t believe they can garnish all of your paycheck, but it would be wise to speak to a professional on the subject.

  77. Hi Natalia , I enjoyed reading what you had to say about your student loans, I found the article searching for info on this as I suffer similar situation. I borrowed 57,000 15 years ago I think they say I owe them 180 now not even sure how thats possible

    I am currently paying them 300 bucks a month just to shut them up, as you can imagine this will never end… Like Amy ” previous comment ” I now actually am making good money, but the previous 15 years of being a freelance artist have pushed my loans into a space I can’t even comprehend. More then my house is worth… So I just ignore them for now.

    anyway thanks for the interesting read.

  78. i just bumped into this article- after doing my own math and looking for other people with this problem online.

    i graduated in 2008 with 25k in loans.

    Ive since paid Sallie 8k. often pay over my monthly min.
    my current principle balance is 23,139. how is this possible?

    Sallie mae does everything it can to f*(k you over, thats how. if you use online payments, and pay more than you owe in interest, they don’t automatically apply ALL of the extra funds to the principle- they apply some to principle (arbitrarily) and the rest to future interest- youre “pre paying” next months bill essentially, and wont owe them at all come the next billing cycle. gee, thanks a$$h0l3s!

    the only way to get them to apply monies solely to the principle is to pay at least 2x the minimum with online billing (this will open an option in the interface to “apply to principle”) or by sending them a second check, by mail with a note and Principle only written in the memo.

    I’ve run into plenty of folks, online on boards, who still get this money applied to next months bill even with the check saying “principle only” in the memo.

    This company is a symbol of greed in the 21st century- do everything you can to bleed money from your customers. Make sure the most convenient ways to pay provide the customer the greatest financial downside possible. Then, make everything as confusing as possible so they wont notice they’re being screwed, won’t understand how they’re being screwed, then devise overly complex bureaucracy to make sure, once people notice they’re being screwed, the solution is so difficult to attain that people give up from exhaustion before they get halfway to resolution.

    After reviewing my statements today, I’m starting to feel as though I’d rather default then send these robber barons another payment. ugh.

  79. If/when you default on your loans (I did), the calls from the bill collectors NEVER stop. You get stacks and stacks of letters from Sallie Mae and the DOE. You give up opening them because they only thing they do is demand $ you don’t have to give. You work a full time job and a half time job and still can’t make their MINIMUM payments. Declaring bankruptcy will not do anything because even if “sold” they’re still federal student loans. As of yesterday, the federal government told me that the MINIMUM payments I would have to make to avoid wage garnishment were $826/month. If they garnish my wages they can take less than $625/month. IF they garnish my wages, that does not even service the interest payments on the debt, and it will never touch the principal, and I will have that wage garnishment on my records and coming out of my pay until I can win the lottery. Plus, the garnishment WON’T stop the collection calls and nastygrams. I learned all of this last night when I tried to call to set up something that I COULD actually pay. They tell you they want to work with you to resolve the issue but they don’t/can’t/won’t. They’re just like all the other debt collectors and worse. I actually told them they’d better just send me to prison.
    All I can say is that they can collect from my estate if they want, because I’m going to either have to 1-work myself to death (95% accomplished), 2-stress myself to death (99% accomplished), 3-get a third job as a really active prostitute (not enough time with other 2 jobs unless it pays insanely well), 4-win the lottery, or 5-commit suicide. No matter how I crunch it, they’ll be collecting from my carcass.
    I was LIED to when I started taking student loans. I was told that they would work with me to make the payments affordable. AFFORDABLE meaning we’ll take every penny and not leave you enough for gas or ramen. I did not understand that my interest was compounded DAILY not yearly.
    I have never felt so hopeless.

  80. OMG! I just came across this blog by chance. Natalia, I FEEL YOUR PAIN! I too am “successful” – 6 figure salary, great guy and a great kid. I have two computer science degrees and I enjoy a steady stream of lucrative consulting gigs. I love my work and I got student loans to get those degrees. However, I have student loans that I would love to put behind me! I took out several private student loans. The interest compounding is incredible! I have changed my entire setup to make paying these off PRONTO a top priority! The interest is enough to choke an elephant! I can’t believe these people sleep at night doing what they do.

  81. This has been a nice read. Sometimes its easy to feel alone surrounded in a myriad of debt. I confess I often search the web in hopes of some sort of help, or advice, or anything that would help me cope with my student loan debt. Just knowing I’m not alone helps, so thanks for that… I often think that someday soon those of us, who thought we were investing into our futures and not the execs at Sallie Mae, may have the chance of an economic restart, like every other debt holder who finds themselves drowning. The removal of bankruptcy protection is the same reason many of us find ourselves in this situation in the first place. The lenders have had no incentive not to get you to borrow to the hilt. Of course those of us with co-signers will still find no reprieve from the sharks… I wish everyone the best of luck in these turbulent and challenging times!


  82. At the end of my education I am left with a $98,000.00 debt , not including interest. My masters degree earns me 42,000.00 yearly. Sad, but very true. As a mother of three teenagers and a blue collar husband we struggle daily. Recently, the department of education informs me my loan will be forgiven after 20 years. I thought to myself, too good to be true. Turns out the loan is forgiven but then you are left with taxes that must be paid to IRS. All in all the taxes will be almost as much as the loans! No one ever explained this to me. The loan company tells me not to worry, 20 years is a long time. Not very comforting. At the end of my long work days I question my choice to be educated. My marriage is constantly rocked because my debt does not allow us much free time. Worst of all, I cannot afford to put my kids through college and they have been forced to get part time jobs. I have been punished for pursuing a higher education. Did I mention I work for the Juvenile department? I’m a mental health counselor, I help our nations troubled teenagers.

  83. I wasted four years of my life getting a bs degree in human services. Never thought that I would be the one on the other side of the desk applying for food stamps :0(

  84. I worked for Sallie Mae for over 15 years and no longer have a job due government changes. It’s that same government you should have the beef with, not Sallie Mae. The program is wholly set up by the government. The interest rate, deferments and forbearances including the interest that is capped associated with them. Where can you go and get any type of loan with no collateral and no credit check, all you did was sign a piece of paper agreeing to repay the loan. In the average student’s defense, I definitely think the schools could do a better job of presenting the consequences of loans, deferments and forbearances on a long term basis. The original load of $37,099.00 and had capped interest of $8,786.24, the capped interest based on 8% you are looking at about an extra $60 per month in interest. If you have a $100,000.00 mortgage, what type of payment would you expect, I bet it’s not $90.00.

    I have been back in school for awhile and I love the idea for the government to completely subsidize the cost. However as an adult and seeing work ethic of so many students (coming to class late, leaving early, not showing up, not completing assignments, texting in class, reading facebook), I would be opposed to it. I have heard time after time, I’m just doing this because…. I personally want to finish my degree in as few semesters as possible and get a job. Someone mentioned making $42,000.00 a year, I would love to start at that, the typical wage here is about $25.000.
    I do understand it’s difficult. One option, with today’s mortgage rates, it might be advantageous to take out a home equity loan and pay off the student loans.
    Sorry for the ruffled feathers, there’s always two sides to the coin. Good luck to everyone.

  85. I have, in the last year, managed to finally start really getting into paying into principal on my Sallie Mae and Citibank loans. Feels liberating. Not out of the woods yet tho. We all know (or should know) what we are getting into when we take out these loans and the “Personal Responsibility” crowd rightly points out that in many cases it’s our own fault. BUT, what has gotten people so upset is that circumstances change and the little people can’t just walk away (unless you wanna be an expat, which you should look into:). On the other hand, the reason many debtors are extra screwed is because the Citibanks, JP Morgan’s, etc of the world. were the main culprits in tanking the economy, yet they get a get out of jail free card, including the individuals who were directly responsible. So, you make a late payment, you’re screwed. Lose 3 billion dollars and are a president of a bank? You have to move into a smaller house in the Hamptons…maybe. Oh, and then there’s the horrible customer service and little ways they also screw you in terms of misapplying payments and obfuscating how interest rate and payment changes will actually work out (hint: not good for you). If you want follow my newly concerted effort to document everything Citibank does that is so effed up (as well as Sallie M and others) feel free to follow my blog at and I would LOVE submissions of stories, with screen shots and everything. I have even decided to start recording my calls to them, so if you feel the urge, to share exactly what goes on in your dealings with your loan servicers, go for it!

    P.S. Thanks for sharing, and in detail, natalia.

  86. Hi Natalia, first of all THANK YOU!!! I’ve finally stumbled upon someone who is able to express how horribly corrupt the entire system is. How dare we as a nation pride ourselves on valuing education and innovation, while simultaneously setting up booby traps to fail along the way. It sickens me that I owe more now than I did 17+ years ago when I graduated. I’ve had a few deferments over the years during short periods of unemployment, but how does this add up? I’ve probably paid the amount of that loan and then some by now. Also, I’ve managed to pay off a non-federal student loan completely (just saying)!! Meaning my payments were actually APPLIED to the PRINCIPAL of that non-federal student loan. To make matters worse, they keep changing who services my loan which means more red tape, more hours trying to re-establish a new online account so I can make payments. I’m soooooo disappointed and disgusted.
    Note: If any posters want to bash folks like Natalia or any of us who speak from personal experience, think twice…judge not lest you be judged.

  87. unfortunately i have been battling them for years . most recent they have gotten so extreme its not even funny . i had a family friend who was a lawyer try an go after them for account fraud when out of the blue i was hit with 7630.00 in what they called Capitalized Compounded King interest . yes that is exactly what it was called. it was just charged to the account out of the blue and then my payment went from 394 to 498.30 a month . My loan almost 10 years ago was for 24,550. according to their site with all my payments made i have paid them a total 37,227.00 and current balance is 32433.00 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my credit is completely ruined right now anything i do and i cant get it higher than a 590, they ran my credit 23 times in one month . When the lawyer had tried to confront them he was hit with SEVERE attitudes, hang ups , uncooperative representatives , we even sent certified mail to request an audit on my account ( which legally any creditor who is asked has 30 days to comply or they found in contempt ) they replied with a single piece of paper exactly 29 days later stating see the website. after 2 months of constant attack on them the lawyer had stated my only option is to take it to federal court because its across state lines and they have endless amounts of money to fight against me ………. where as i do not . So now recently i had even set up payments to go to a credit card to i can try and get caught up on other bills. when a family member got sick and i spent alot of time in the hospital , they had an issue with the card and instead of calling they sent emails to an email address that wasn’t mine !!!!!!!!! then charged me over 150$ in late fees and processing fees because for 2 months the payment didn’t go thru and no one even called !!!!!! i called to try and clear it up and they said my only option at this point is to pay the 1545.00 which includes payments, fees, fines and capitalized interest. they would NOT work with me . when i asked well what if i just stop paying they stated that easy they charge me 35% charge off fee of what ever the balance is then go after my pay and my cosigners and take tax returns and possible put a lean on my house !!!! and this is all LEGAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if any one has any ideas or helpful incite please help . going to school has been the BIGGEST AND WORST thing i have ever done in my life. my wife and daughter and i suffer from extreme stress financially because of this horrid excuse of an educational helpful company.

  88. OMG – I stumbled across this blog looking for any thing in regards to Sallie Mae and the hell they have put my son in – this can’t be real? He too feels like he might as well end it all for what’s the use? I am at a loss, scared and totally shocked…..

  89. Susan
    I am in a situation where I achieved my B.S. in Business Management at an older age. Was gainfully employed and making enough money to pay my student loan payments for 7 years. Then I moved out of the state I was living in and my nightmare started. The economy tanked and I was unable toget a job. When I did, I paid whatever I could. Now, I owe 67k and have been unemployed for a year and a half. I am now unable to work for health reasons. I have heard that Sallie Mae will take my SS when I am eligible for retirement. Well, My next question is will that take welfare when I am forced to get it because they have taken the only income that I will be getting. These loans are not dischargible under bankruptcy unless you can prove extreme circumstances. Wow, If I had known this when I decided to go to school I never would have gone.

  90. I went to a state school for pharmacy and after it was all said and done accrued 125k in student loan debt. I entered repayment in 2007 and have been paying 550 a month on a 5 year graduated plan. I have never missed a payment and have it set up with Sallie Mae as auto debit from my checking account due to a 1/4 point interest rate savings. My current rate fixed is 4.75% as I was able to get ahold of lower rates in 2006 when I graduated as part of some interest rate reset thing that was going on. I just happened to look at my loan amount and since paying for 5 years I have paid them THIRTY THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS (YES 33k!) and my balance shows I have paid roughly THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS (YES, 3k…1…2…3K!). How do you like those apples? The only thing I can think of is that student loans amortize like a mortgage does. Ever look at what you are really paying after you pay your home off? These kinds of reverse interest loans should be illegal, however it is how the world turns. As much as I hate my loans, it afforded my ability to have the career I have now. The way I look at it is that if one day the economy takes my job away or I can no longer work, then you can’t get blood from a stone. Garnish, threaten, etc all you want. I will still find a way to live.

  91. Move to Canada or Mexico. Screw the banks. They deserve it. You can thank the politicians (they are all in it only for themselves, and would sell their Mother for a vote) for creating a monstrosity where a bankruptcy or default will never affect the student lenders. Talk about screwing today’s youth.

    I am in my late 40’s and have another 16 years to go. I have never missed a payment. I am one of the few that actually benefited and could pay them off in full today but don’t because I am paying less than 3% interest. But I don’t empathize with the lenders. They have screwed everyone left, right and center. For some reason only they got a bailout and everyone else has to take their lumps. They really need to put a guillotine on Wall Street and start chopping. Its the only way the elite would ever get the message. It worked in France….


  93. I’m in the same situation. In repayment since 2007 and going to have a daughter soon. And my loan balanced haven’t changed. Is nothing of my payment going to principle? How many years of interest do I need to pay here? What portion of my payments go to interest/principle. At least with my mortgage I can see what is applied…

  94. In response to Marc Anthony —— Enter a late and foreign (Canadian) response so to speak. The system is the same and perhaps to some degree worse in Canada. I encourage others to get a true grasp of the system of student loans to read this book the reason that student loans are destructive is they are for profit only…they are designed by large financial institutions who purchase debt collection companies to capture exorbitant and extortionist interest (in British Columbia Canada – prime plus 2.5%) that’s about 7-8% where is the social safety net in that? Between my spouse and I (well educated – Canadian by blood/American Educated by choice/ residing in the U.S. with residency) we owe about 170K – and are trying to find a way to consolidate a system that required you to borrow not from one entity such as sallie mae but three (federal, provincial and bank) btw….our system employs many former sallie mae collections personnel to strong arm and threaten former students who are sinking, sunk and or drowned in debt….The view and hope I have is that somehow the system itself will be overhauled similar to Obama’s vision, such that they can never take/nor you should never have to pay more than 10% of monthly gross income, over 20 years with very low interest for the life of…..if that were the case perhaps we could accrue savings, build equity in a house, pay debt and be responsible productive citizens rather than become burdens that we are forced to be because of restrictive guerrilla banking/lending…..on both sides of the border….We can all learn lessons from Finland/Sweden etc., with respect to how the higher education system should be…btw Ph.D stands for piled higher in debt……

  95. I’m having the same problem with Sallie Mae and no one at any agency seems able or willing to help. I started re-paying my student loan in 1991 and am still paying for it and…they now say I will have to pay on it until 2022! That is a full 31 years. But wait, it gets worse. My original TOTAL loan was only for $10,000. By the time I’m done, I will have re-paid them $32,000! That means they will earn $22,000 on interest alone! They are crooks who don’t send you bills, they don’t send you ANYTHING to say “hey, if you want to pay your loand down faster, here’s what you need to do.” And, they don’t send payment confirmations. I have been requesting documents from them for two months and they never send them or even acknowledge receipt. Anyone have any resources to help? I’ve contacted my Senator…no help. State Education department just takes Sallie Mae’s side.

    This country is about to collapse…does anyone wonder why?

    If anyone knows of a good way to help solve this, please let me know. Thanks!

  96. Natasha, I cannot believe that you can say ‘Suicide seems to be the only way out to them’. Suicide? For what? Remind to yourself who we are. We Human Being, with our weknesses, wishes, thoughts, ideas and even mistakes! Right! ‘I have paid to SM 8 years, and then missed two paiments with lack of job, and …then…blah…blah…now I’m in default with 20% more…and my life as nightmare’. ‘I payed them 27K with 35K and still have 31K…dont understand how they count’. ‘I do not have any debt and credit history…..I buy a car for cash, but they did not give me a credit to by big-screen TV’. So many funny stories about that crap. Is that nonsense? Personally, I have around 80K, just finnished my ‘master’, and planning to take PHD cause I have some money to the limit of their loan to me, and do not care about my freacking credit history. Do not even think to play in their game. You say ‘Im talking about not being able to rent an apartment’. Just think about one thing how the people from Russia, Polland, India, China bouhgt a houses without any credit history, new cars, do business, and so one. You say ‘Duke costs too much’. Do not worry about you decision, you made the best one. Some pusy sad ‘You made the poor decision of going to a school that you couldn’t afford……the third mistake you made was…..’.Who the hell is he trying to judge us? Probably that smart have some candy from them. If I had an opportunity to go to MTA or Carnegie or even Stanford for my education, I would do it without any doubt about to how much will go up my loan. That is our choice and, if you want, a dream where we have or want to go, but that is their rights give us uncountable money or not. For this situation they should have smart regulations. The education system is broken and defaulting counts as civil disobedience. Even if they can start lopping 15 percent off the top of our disposable pay is not the end and do not be frustrated with this situation, you are not alone. Every government try to bend their slaves. Ask our parents how they were grounded around twenty years ago and still alive and kicking. I know that majority of americans has a good sense of live and of course humor, and they will solve the problem of this mental prostitution. Do not even think about you dark future in their illness debt frame. Be good, love your kids, your husband, you parents, and try to spent as much as possible time with them.

  97. F*CK You Sallie Mae…. You were a “shining star” in my world when this very poor, child was trying to overcome horrible stuff…. “you have now become the inevitable meteor that will ruin everything” before u even hit…. F*ck you and your a*shole CEO and all other douchebags who deny the AMAZING power they have in my own childrens futures….
    Btw… From an educated woman (yup, I see the irony, as*hole)…. “Go f*ck yourself.”

  98. WTG Sambogirl 82

    I originally stumbled onto this blog looking for information on Canadian Student Loans…. the similarities between the two countries, their loans, and their guerrilla collection techniques is startling. In Canada we are taxed from a low 3.5 to 11% interest and there is no real relief except death and even then the collections companies will hassle former students parents. I propose all student loan debt holders in North America to threaten a complete non payment/no contact situation….form class actions across the scope of SL’s and see then if we can’t get relief. Our loans total over 180k CDN – two Masters and one Ph.d and like you with your vehemence towards Miss Sallie…I say F&*K you CSL and F&*k the horse they rode in on too!

  99. You too, huh? Sally mae got me to put my name on their contract 4 years ago. Started getting my degree but sally mae put a stop to my education, and told me i had a minimum payment of 3,000 bucks before i can take another class. sally mae is the queen of the college bubble scam.

  100. Hi. I came across your site because I’m starting to get anxious about stupid sallie Mae. I’ve been paying now for 3 years and it depressed me to know that I’ve payed more in interest than on my principal. I’m just so confused as to how this is going to work out in the end. I thought maybe you would be able to help with any support or advice. ..

  101. I don’t really have any support or advice beyond – the system is broken and something’s got to give. I hope that helps! I think it’s useful to be angry about this stuff – as opposed to scared and upset.

  102. I donated the 1.40.. I graduated 3 years ago with 120k in debt…

    I am now at 151k in debt : (
    don’t know what to do… might just give up

  103. Organize….join occupystudentdebt (facebook) – at least there you will have others similar…..I and my wife owe a sh*t load as well….Canadian…..same damn story…’s a machine to make money…. it should be free or near free and it was at one time about 30 years ago….tuition have risen about 3-5 times the rate of inflation, interest rates in a similar fashion….how does one get ahead? Through the voice of thousands…..Occupy!

  104. Thank you…just thank you for this post. I am in tears today over being called by NARS for Wells Fargo, saying I owe 7,000 (this is just ONE of my defaulted student loans) and wanting to “settle” the debt if only I pay them 4,500 up front. I told them I don’t have the money, but that I’d be happy to set up a monthly payment plan with a fair and reasonable payment. They won’t go for it, they want everything by Thursday. All or nothing. Very rude, very harrassing. They called me at work, my husband at work, my dad at work. They even gave my husband information on the loan and what the expect even though he’s not on it at all, and when they talked to me they didn’t ask for security questions at all; they DID ask for the last four of my social and when I answered that I wasn’t even 100% sure of who they were so I wasn’t comfortable divulging it they didn’t even let me finish my sentence and she told me the numbers and moved on to give me the rest of the details (though she had told me everything for the most part before she even pretended to care if I was who I said I was). I really don’t think any of this is legal. Very frustrating. How do they get away with this sh*t???!!! You are right on the money (har har) when you say it is slavery!!!

  105. This is just sad… I am on my grace period right now and start paying this January. I feel so bad for all the people who posted (not the hater comments) and do not have a way out. It is comforting to know that I am not alone… why are they killing young people!?

  106. The tactics you describe are illegal and harassing. You should make note of this call, document everything that was said, have sworn affidavits signed by your family members who were contacted by the creditor…(you should never acknowledge debt if they have not sent you an itemized list of who you owe, the dates you owe from, how they have contacted you and most importantly how much you owe (should be ranged from 1st deposit covering x period to last deposit covering x period). Buy yourself a recorder or use the phone feature if you have it…. record the calls that come from these people – tell them that you are recording the calls… I literally guarantee the harassing nature will stop.

  107. I really do despise how things worked out, for you, for myself, and for many others out there. Blindly borrowing student loan debt with the expectation that a degree would be worth something monetarily was stupid and should have been researched ahead of time. Unfortunately, as we all know, that is not the case and the degree doesn’t guarantee the job (unless it’s medical or science/technical). For guys like me with a useless, small town private school business administration degree, I basically feel like I graduated with no advantage to people who didn’t go to school, because I submit job application after job application and still rarely hear anything back. I’m still working the same job I had before I graduated, retail cell phone sales. The job is bollocks. The majority of the customers are ridiculously needy and sometimes outright offensive, the corporate kool-aid is bitter, and I hate about every day that I have to go to work. Unfortunately I can’t leave. The pay is JUST good enough to cover my monthly expenses, and since this is the same job I’ve had since college (working in retail sales) I don’t have transferable skills that will help me get a job that’s beyond entry level, which in most local industries, wouldn’t pay the bills. Have I defaulted on my loans? No. So you ask, “well what’s your payment amount?” It’s 8XX.XX/month. Between sallie mae and fedloan I have 8X,XXX in loans – For a four year degree! I also have a $200 car payment, $355 rent, $70 insurance, $100 cell phone bill, electric, internet, 3 credit cards, groceries and gas. My monthly expenses are close to $2000 dollars. I hate my job, selling crap to the general public in retail. I have passions and ideas, business plans, but no way to ever be able to follow those passions because I too, am a slave to these effing loans. It really sucks. Had I known way back when what I really wanted out of life, I wouldn’t have gone to school. I used to have dreams about being rich, CEO, driving nice cars, boats, etc. I don’t care about any of that stuff anymore. All I care about is how I can help people live healthier lives through fitness and exercise, and would be completely happy living a mediocre life (income wise). Unfortunately, I can’t follow that dream. It seems the only way for me to ever follow that dream is to sell out, try to climb the ladder, pay of my loans as fast as possible (ten years, MAYBE 7?), then pull out and pursue it. I’d be willing to bet by then, I’d be driven so mad with corporate BS that I’d not even have the balls to drop it all and follow the dream of my youth (early 20’s) and would now be another middle-aged, unhappy with job/life/going through the motions sonofabitch. It’s a joke, and we’re all on the ass end of it.

  108. Thank you Natalia for starting this post. as others have said, it does indeed give me some degree of comfort to know I am not alone in this quagmire of educational debt. I owe both State & Federal loans. I have had severe health problems that were not planned (obviously) and will not be going away. I went back to school (healthy) in my 30’s. I am now 51. I owe easily 3X what my original loans are. And they will follow me to the grave.

    I hope you don’t mind, and not that it will do any good, but i actually sent the link for this blog to the White House. I suggest we start letting the White House know we are here and like our loans are not going away and desperately need some relief. The like to email the WH is

    It certainly cannot hurt to do so. I will continue to follow you blog. Thank you ALL for sharing and good luck to all of you above.

  109. I don’t mind. Not that it really makes a difference – getting sick is “avoiding personal responsibility,” according to those who are luckier at this point in time. But the thought counts.

  110. I am with you Natalia. I can’t stand Sallie Mae and the rest of the folks in her family! The price I paid for an education I guess. It’s almost not worth it. I feel like telling Sallie Mae to “come get this damn degree.” It has not gotten me through any doors or increased my pay. Not saying one should not get an education but I am now $67K in debt and the balance does not seem to get any smaller. Yes, you guessed it. I am only able to pay the interest on this loan which is $337 per month! Damn near a car note for some. So you see, I will be a slave child to Sallie probably til the day I do or win the lottery. Sallie Mae, Freddie Mae and all of them are a bunch of high class pimps.

    Anyway, that’s my story. All the best to everyone.

  111. I have over $100K in student loan debt and make less than $30K a year in my salaried position. I’m aggressively seeking a better-paying job, but so far no luck. My co-signer is now deceased and there is no way my family can help me. My loans are now officially in default and I’m already paying off $15,000 of them to a collections agency at $85/month, which is all I can realistically afford, given my basic expenses. The rest of the loans are now way past due and 5 of them – a total of $90K – are going to a collections agency, but I can’t afford to pay any more than I am now – maybe another $50 a month, but given yearly inflation, that’s up in the air as is.

    I was never able to complete my degree program because I moved from Los Angeles to the SF Bay Area in California – during the quarter I took off school, the loan program was cancelled and I had to start the process over again… the creditors would not accept two different co-signers and I could not go back to school. So I have all this debt for a program I couldn’t even finish. I’m lucky I have this job, but with no actual degree, the notion of getting something better is dicey at best.

    I made a terrible decision, because I was desperate to get out of my hometown… still, this insane debt – so large I have to actively try not to think about it or else I won’t want to get out of bed – feels like a ludicrous level of punishment for my one bad decision. I’m chipping away at it, but unless I win the lottery or write a novel or screenplay that lands me a massive payday – a dopey dream that I still cling to, despite being ridiculous – I’ll be paying this nonsense off forever. I’m fucked. We’re all fucked, and it pisses me off.

    I started this petition on the White House website:

    It deals with the particular segment of our desperate, terrified community, but maybe it’s a start. 20 signatures! Meanwhile, a petition to “put prayer back in school” has over 4,500 signatures. What a country. Please do what you can. I’m so close to just blowing my head off, but I’m holding on… and I don’t really know why.

  112. Do NOT blow your head off. In fact, let me just say this to everyone reading and commenting here: don’t you dare blow your heads off. If you do that, guess what? They win.

  113. This was a good read. My girlfriend is going thru some of the same. I think it is the ultimate root to her unhappiness

  114. I feel for some of you guys. If it’s really a hopeless situation why not try to go through bankruptcy. I know it’s not normally allowed, but there is an exception for “undue hardship”. Probably it will be made easier someday as lots of people are caught up in student debt with low paying jobs and/or unemployed.

    Sad that they have bailed out the banks and the car companies, but have not made things easier for young people who have gotten themselves into a mess (with the help of a lousy economy and an overpriced higher education system).

  115. The “undue hardship” exception is usually not granted to anyone. You can lose your eyesight, lose limbs, and still have to fight for years in court to prove under hardship – and know in advance that you are likely to lose that fight. Most people don’t even bother, due to the legal costs.

  116. I am in the same boat. I tried to do the right thing, get a degree in my field. I now owe $40,000 and there are no permanent jobs. I am a contractor. Have been for two years. I have credit card bills due to an emergency medical situation. My car is very old at this point and I pay for repairs every other month but can’t afford a new one. I am a hard worker, did everything right, graduated Summa cum laude. This is what I get for it. And to top it all off my friend who dropped out of high school and got fired from his last position for throwing a fit and calling his boss several choice words has just received a job at a university where he can get free tuition, good pay and great benefits. The Society of Flunkies who worship other Flunkies is in full force. This situation is very discouraging, and it makes me come very close to wanting to leave the country I love.

  117. You have to be aggressive with fighting debt. You really can’t pay down a loan adequately with minimum payments, deferments and forbearances while eventually getting on an interest only repayment plan. With the interest you have accrued on that account if you have paid as much as you said the principle should be much lower. That being said there has to be points where one forks out a large lump sum, perhaps a few times a year to get the loan down quickly. Also tac on making your normal (leveled) monthly payments.

    I understand many people’s financial situations are difficult which makes paying debt difficult, but on the flip side many people can’t pay for debt because they bite of more than can chew. Many people will take out a loan for a nice car or a mortgage on their house while not even focusing on previous debt such as student loans. Some people also simply have way to many kids which makes paying debt impossible as it is unless they have a absolutely incredible job.

  118. I made the mistake of taking 10,000 loan from Sallie Mae and having my mom co-sign it. I missed a payment and they called my mom at work. GRRRR

  119. I lost my eldest daughter 18 months ago. She seemed happy, but had had a hard time finding work after she graduated, and could only find temp or low paying restaurant jobs even with her degree. For two weeks I had no idea why she took her own life until I saw the calls on her cell phone from a collections agency. They called day and night, sometimes leaving messages, sometimes just silence. My husband sent them an official copy of the death certificate, but they still called until we hired an attorney to make them cease and desist.

    Our daughter originally took out several Stafford Student loans totalling $28,000 for college ten years ago. However, it seems that the loans were sold to other financial institutions, with permanent ties to Sallie Mae, and over time and until her death, she ended up with a loan amount of almost $70,000. I don’t have any idea how that happened, I’m assuming penalties, and compounded interest, but I am sure it was very stressful and depressing to know you were trapped with that kind of debt at such a young age.

    Now my youngest daughter is considering going to college, but I am trying my best to change her mind. I advised her to go into the armed forces, but she is not too thrilled with that idea. I do know that she will not have anything to do with Sallie Mae student loans. Life is very hard now in this ecomonic environment, and I believe college is out of reach for the middleclasses. Time was, we could take out a second loan on the house to put a child through school (at least a second mortgage was fixed rate loan, and you knew when it would be paid off), but that all ended with the housing crash. I remember when I went to school in Europe. Many of the students were paid a grant to complete their studies, and I also remember a boyfriend attending a British college who received a government quarterly stippend to pay for school. Why isn’t that model followed in the US?

  120. Hi Natalia,

    First I wanted to say thank you for putting this out there. I keep coming back to it every time I consider stopping paying “Aunt Sallie.” I definitely fall into the category of “I signed the contract, I want to fulfill my obligations,” but I’ve reached the point where I no longer qualify for deferment (which only applied to the FELP loans I have, I still have to pay the private loans), which I have been riding ever since I graduated. Even with a degree, I can’t find steady job, I don’t have the experience, so I take unpaid internships, which they use for free labor and I still don’t get an offer. I volunteer with organizations to get experience, enhance skills and make connections and it still isn’t enough to find something that will pay enough to allow me live and pay off only the interest, let alone the principle. Even though I am still worried about what will happen the moment I stop paying (the calls, the collection agency, the harassment) There isn’t anything I can do. If they want to collect everything I own, then I can’t work, can’t pay them, so be it. I just expect that anything they do to take away from me, takes away their ability to get paid. And in all honest, whatever they do can’t be any worse than the weight and the fear that Aunt Sallie has plagued me ever since I signed for my first loan. I did want to ask how you handle (are handling?) it, the calls, the notices, etc, if you don’t mind.

    Also, after going through all of the comments, I did want to reassure you that I have never considered suicide to be an option. As I mentioned, I felt I had to hold to my obligations. And as much as I want to fulfill those obligations, it is beyond my capability to do so. And Aunt Sallie is no where near as important as my family and friends, who I know will support me through this. And in all honesty, whatever they do now can’t be any worse than the weight and the fear that Aunt Sallie has plagued me with ever since I signed for my first loan. I did want to ask how you handle (are handling?) it, the calls, the notices, etc, if you don’t mind. (I’m still a little worried,especially if they start harassing my mom, who didn’t co-sign anything, but I worry).

    Again, thank you for being open and honest about all of this.

  121. You hear a lot about “special programs” where all or part of your student loan is repaid if you go into certain lines of work, such as nursing, teach in an underserved area, etc. in exchange for a 3-year commitment. My wife did this, and it was a total waste of time. Mainly, that financial assistance is monthly, NOT a lump sum. So, if they pay $200 a month on your Sallie Mae loan, only about $10 of that will go into the principal, the rest to interest.

    At the end of the year, they’ve paid maybe $100 or so on your actual loan balance, AND you’re stuck with a 3-year commitment to work. In addition, that entire monthly loan benefit is taxable income on your monthly paycheck, and that ALONE eats up whatever little principal pay-down you got. And if you wise up and leave the job before the 3-year commitment runs out, you have to pay back every penny the program paid.

    I can’t help but wonder if the student loan lenders help the government “design” these so-called loan repayment programs.

  122. OMG I thought I was the only one dealing with Sallie Mae… I have a question… i know if I dont make a payment it will hurt my credit, but… would it hurts my cosigner credit as well??

  123. Late payments won’t affect your cosigner’s credit record. The cosigner comes into the picture when you officially default. Then the cosigner becomes responsible for repayment.

  124. It has been very interesting reading everyone’s stories, aside from the few “tin men” that shouldn’t share their inability to feel compassion with the rest of us. Only now have I begun to realize how many people have been close to destoyed by the greedy. I was recently informed that I will contribe 68, 000 to SallieMae’s greed if I ever pay off the original 30, 000. I am grateful I was not placed in a position of destroying people through greed.

  125. I want to thank you for sharing this post. I am in the same situation. I think what some people don’t realize is that many of us did not “bite off more than we could chew.” I borrowed what I expected to earn my first year of working, based on research. I checked both the Bureau of Labor Statistics site and salary descriptions in jobs posted on and similar sites. What I didn’t count on was graduating into a downturn, wanting to do interior design work at a time when people were underwater on their mortgages and companies were not looking to renovate their spaces. As far as I can tell, that field still hasn’t come back from its slump. Maybe it never will. But the debts I have will never go away. And the interest rate I am being charged on my loans is exorbitant, 13% on all of them.

    At the same time, I’m trying to establish myself as an artist while working at a day job that helps to keep me afloat. I don’t know how much longer I can do it, paying the minimum that Sallie Mae’s rate reduction program will allow while also paying to have a small studio where I can work (since I live in a studio apartment). But I am trying very hard not to let them keep me from living a full life. I’ve made plenty of other sacrifices. I don’t travel, unless you count taking the Megabus, and I don’t own a car, and I live in a studio apartment, as I mentioned.

    This situation was what got me involved with the Occupy movement. I am disappointed that we didn’t raise more awareness of this issue. I am so tired of reading comments from people who don’t get it and are so selfish that they don’t want anyone else to get a break as they harp on “personal responsibility.” But sometimes the unexpected happens. People get sick or get hurt or find themselves in the midst of a recession. And that’s why we need a safety net. If we at least had the same consumer rights we get with credit cards, we could at least negotiate lower monthly payments.

    Sallie Mae is a prime example of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. Did you know that they just tripled their net income? (read more here: Meanwhile people are going without food and medical care and their wages are getting garnished, and for what? There are several other remarks I’d like to make about them, but I know I have to be careful what I say on the internet, so I will stop now.

  126. I can see where State College Guy is coming from. On personality tests, I score off the charts for “sense of self-agency”, I and suspect that he does as well. I came from a poor family. Like him I moderated my college experience due to “financial realities” by going to a state school, but I still ended up dropping out. In the end I found a way to thread through the obstacles, I am in the process of completing my education in a fairly prestigious school after working full time at jobs that I never envisioned myself working at which were not on my radar of “satisfying” jobs, and yes I possibly even found some success. In an ideal libertarian world the bootstraping ethos is a good ethos, but we are not in an ideal libertarian world. A lot of my friends, acquaintances, and family are not making it. A “success rate” of one-in-thousands of successful bootstrappers that also leaves the vast majority of the population no better off and also absolutely crushes a significant percentage of the population is not ideal – it is not even in the ballpark of social, economic or moral viability.

    Yes, people should have a handle on their fiscal state at all times. Yes, they should read every last detail of any contract they sign and understand the implications of every little clause. Yes, people should be held to account for the terms that they agree to in contracts. That works when we were all little kids pinky swearing in the playground, or when we negotiate with sleazy Joe at the pawn shop on a lay-away plan for the wicked bass he has hanging in the window. It SHOULD work for students who sign up for the happy happy joy joy federally backed student loans, especially when the federal government is tossing out platitudes of how important education is, hope, change, future, investment in the children, the children are our future and all that crap. However there is a huge, huge power and knowledge imbalance between the large financial institutions and students and this expectation cannot stand.

    Highly educated, highly capable and highly paid legal and business professionals not only get to dictate the terms of the contracts, but also find ways of obfusticating the actual potential impact of the terms such that, IMHO, it is not reasonable in any reality to be able to expect that every student can and will individually know what the legal and financial impact may be of every little clause in every juris-my-diction. E.g. in the master promissory note, what state is the company incorporated in, what state are you in, does and if so where does the contract stipulate any disagreements can be adjudicated and how, lawsuit, potential class action status, arbitration by whom and what rules – who pays for what fees, etc. If they could know all these things and knowledgeably and negotiate these terms then what is the use of the financial company to hire a fancy pants highly educated, highly experienced and highly compensated lawyer to drafted the terms if any Joe Blow out of highschool can do it? Nor should students be obliged to hire a lawyer who does know those laws to review and negotiate a student loan contract when the government who is supposed to be looking out for them, their schools who is supposed to be looking out for them, and pretty much every person on the planet are telling them that it is a good deal.

    Usually when there is such a huge knowledge and power imbalance, it is in the public and the state interest to enact consumer protection laws to prevent abuse. Unfortunately in this case, as the loans are federally backed and the financial institutions have such a large lobbying impact on the drafting of the rules; there is both a conflict of interest for the government, as well as “regulatory capture”. While the overarching concept that “the children are our future” and that “education is important’ remains the motivating ideals, the devil of the details. While the risk is largely borne by the student (a not entirely unfair assignment of risk), the lending institutions DO encourage students to borrow more than they need (usually as much as possible!) knowing that this increases the percentage of defaults. Why? Because the lending institutions have crunched the numbers and they KNOW that it is in their financial interests to do so when the risk is mostly borne by the students. It does not matter if this is not in the interests of the student or in the interests of the federal government, those interests or the destruction of those interests are an externality that the financial companies do not have to deal with. With the “easy money” available, “educational institutions” mint too many graduates with degrees that far far outnumber the job pool for which they were obstinately “educated” for, because when the student is in their care, the financial obligations is also the educational institutions problems, but as soon as the student graduates, it is no longer the educational institution’s interests (and what do you know, for a lot of students but not all like State College Guy or myself, six months after graduations the house of cards or the wall of bricks comes crashing down!)

    The system needs to be fixed. It is not simply that Sallie Mae is bad (and they are, I have loans managed by them and they are the worst institution out of any that I have dealt with – convoluted hoops to jump through in order to pre-pay or to send additional payments, extra fees to make sure that they process your payment on time, etc,). Financial companies truly do need SOME protection otherwise they would not lend to students, but they don’t need the full extent of the abusive-to-students system that is currently in place. Changing the protections WILL reduce the amount of money available to students. The entire system is broken, from the over abundance of expensive educational programs at all levels that dead-end into no or low paying jobs, a job market that requires useless degrees that have absolutely no bearing on what the person actually has to do, empty good jobs that no one can get trained for because the training does not exist, and yes unreasonable expectations by students and their families as to what a college degree in the particular field of their hart will do for their future.

  127. I am really glad I stumbled upon this blog. I owe 30,000 to Sallie Mae not including interest. I always wanted to be a nurse, however in CA it is extremely hard to get into a state nursing program. I went to a private school to get my LVN certificate and now that I am a nurse I do make a decent living but I can not afford the $500 a month sallie mae wants from me. I have been taking classes that I dont even need at the community college just so I don’t have to start paying my loans back. I want to become an RN but that would require even more student loans and I am just not sure I want to add to this situation. I feel like I am being stepped up when all I want to do is climb higher.

  128. Megan – what’s more disgusting is that you can’t acquire or renew a nursing license if you default on a student loan. So they prevent you from getting a job to pay the loan back with!

    Also, don’t fall into the trap of getting a “loan repayment program” for working as a nurse or in an underserved area. These just make monthly payments on your loan in exchange for a 3-year work commitment. 95% of that monthly payment just goes in on the interest and doesn’t actually bring your balance down. Further, those monthly payments are considered taxable income, which eats up what little benefit you get from the program. It’s a scam, designed by the government in collusion with the student loan lenders.

    What a mess. I think the only thing that’s really going to impact this situation is some kind of REALLY large-scale, nationwide action. Maybe 20,000,000 people demonstrating in front of the White House, something like that.

  129. Yes, everybody should make careful choices, but never doubt for a second that the top of the American econnomic ladder makes bad choices all the time, it just doesn’t hurt them as much when they do, if it hurts them at all. In fact, it usually hurts the bottom 80 %. See what Disney and ESPN pulled off this week. And what about the guys who make the decisions on loans, bankruptcies, bailouts? Well, they’ve got it tough. To wit:

  130. I have 3 private student loans out standing. I am 27 years old and am on SSDI and have been, I was trying to goto school but I got to sick and was in and out of the hospital to much to be able to make going to school worth while. I had both private and fedral student loans, all of mny fedral loans were discharged due to disabilty but as you all know the private student loans not so much.
    However I did some digging around and founcd that Sallie Mae got in bed with minesota life and securian financial where if the person taking out the loan is disabled then they will discharge the loan and absolve both the original person (me) as well as my cosigner, as I read it also mentioned death, if the person taking out the loan were to die then it can be forgiven. So I call them up, they send me the forms, first off the real kicker for me was that despite me being on SSDI they said that salle mae had to evaluate my disabilty status (gee like the government just awards anyone ssdi) as well as teh favct that I hada fedral loan through sallie mae that department of ed forgave due to disability.
    So i send in the forms and then I get a call telling me that I am in fact diavled )go figure) HOWEVER my cosigner is now on the loan. Well that was a shock to me as I thought it would just be all forgiven, so the kicker is they tell me that this is the case HOWEVER this id onlyu true for SMART loans..well the SMART loan optoin didn’t exist when I took out my SIGNITURE Loan (which dosent exist anymore I think) so I am very unhappy with this and I think its a bunch of bs…

    So then we say well the cosigner is also on ssdi so they say well ok but the disablity of the cosigner has to be after the loan was taken out…well there is a little issue here since the date the loan funded in my account (the school i went to didnt fund the loans until after the drop dead day like a month into the semester) so if you go off that date then the disbility had already taken place and they wont discharge the loan however if they go off when i was aproved for the loan then the disavilty had not yet taken place…so of course them and their shaddy practices are trtying to say the loan date is the date it funded basically tellling me to go pound sand.

    So I am not happy with sallie mae needless to say and I want to get this out in the press and really make people aware of the crap sallie mae is doing, so I would love to speak with anyone that is dealing with something like this, please email me

    Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from some of you…


  131. Do you know anyone who stopped paying, and what happened to them 1, 2, 3, 5+ years afterwards? I can not make my payments on my PRIVATE SM loans, so I stopped paying. I am coming to terms with the fact that they will eventually garnish my wages after suing me, my credit is already in the toilet… It seems so unsure right now, I’d like to be prepared for all the shit that’s about to roll downhill. 😦

  132. Your credit score affects many aspects of your existence. A lot of people in the hole can no longer rent – just to give one obvious example. Or else you can rent – but have to pay 6 months up front.

  133. What a mess. Remember also that you can’t obtain OR renew any kind of professional license if you default on certain kinds of education loans, e.g. medical, real estate, cosmetology, etc. and in some professions, your active license can actually be revoked. It depends on exactly who’s guaranteeing the loan, which can be tricky. Plus, the cost of things like car insurance rates can skyrocket if you have bad credit.

    As has often been suggested, you might consider… seriously… moving to another country to live.

  134. I am currently having my wages garnished by the Department of Education. I am in therapist and took out a student loan for my masters program. As a single parent I barely make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck. Four years ago I tried to get my loan out of default status by attempting to work with the collection agency that held my loan. They were rude and threatening and wanted me to pay no less then $575 a month. I ended up hanging up on them. I ended up losing my job soon after and called the collection agency to let them know. That was 3 yrs ago. I knew I would eventually have to pay them. So now they are garnishing my wages approximately $300 per month. I make less at my current job. However, I am luck to have family support so I know I will not be homeless. However, it would not matter to the Dept of Education if I was homeless as long as they receive there money. There are many things wrong with this system. I just feel fortunate that I have the family support so my daughter and I will not starve.

  135. Hi — Student loans are in the news again. I found your post while searching for the latest on a bill that’s currently making its way through congress.
    As an Iranian-American in Texas once told me, the US is a place that does everything it can to try to bankrupt you. I really can’t be more disappointed with my home country.
    Completing college or vocational training is essential to obtaining some type of gainful employment in the US. But the cost of education has been growing even FASTER than the cost of healthcare. College is supposed to take four years, but only if you’re like most students and go into debt to pay for those four years. The alternative is to go to school part-time and pay as you go.
    Paying as you go means that finishing college will take much longer. While you’re working and going to school, you most likely won’t be earning a lot. Not earning much means you won’t be participating in the economy to the extent that you could if you had your degree and were working full-time. Paying as you go means all your money will be going to paying tuition and living expenses , and most likely there won’t be any money left over for the future. Of course, if the cost of education wasn’t criminally expensive, you probably could work less and finish faster.
    Taking on debt to finish college in four years has major financial consequences. A student graduating college today will be carrying an average debt of almost $28k dollars. That student will forgo full participation in the economy in order to pay off debts. Debt repayment often takes decades. If the economy doesn’t provide for you, even though you worked hard and got your college degree, you’re SOL.
    From a financial perspective, the US system of higher education makes no sense. But our useless politicians in all of their grand uselessness do nothing to reign in the cost of higher education.
    Why is it that the American way is often the most expensive? And how good are the outcomes of the American educational system compared to cost? Not great, by any measure — go check for yourself.
    What is America really all about other than money? I saw a story the other day about workers signing up for plastic bank cards as a way to get access to their pay! There were withdrawal fees and other fees associated with these cards. That story typifies the American way and what America is really all about.
    Take a good look at the US labor market. Employers have been whittling down benefits for years. Major industries, such as retail and hospitality, have been hiring mostly part-time workers for years. Part-time workers generally don’t receive benefits. Significant growth in the labor market is concentrated in only a few areas: healthcare, energy, and high-tech. Growth for many industries is predicted to be flat, negative, or very slow. See a problem here?
    I can’t stand to hear any of the patriotic nonsense out of the mouths of politicians. The land of opportunity. Please, that’s Asia not America. The land that values education. Not. That’s South Korea, Switzerland, Finland, and other countries far away from America. And what about that American dream? Yep, it was always just a dream. American’s go deep into debt to build their material empires, and that’s the way the banks want it.
    It would be great if we lived in a global society, where a person from country A could just pick up and go to country B or C or D or E. But the world isn’t like that. If we did live in a world where we were free to move about, you absolutely would see massive migrations. Who wouldn’t offer their time, talent, and labor to another country with more sensible policies if they could so? And you know what? The world would be a better place. Competition really does work. If a bunch of people started leaving the US to work elsewhere, the US would finally be forced to pull its socks up and do better. Instead, the US government continues to ignore problems and maintain status quo. [edited as requested – MOD]

  136. Sorry, I made a copy/paste error. My comment was repeated several times. If you’d like, you can deny the comment, and I’ll repost it properly.

  137. For the person who commented their loan would be forgiven in 10 yrs for public service. Forget it. Salliemae doesn’t participate. Imagine that the largest student loan provider doesn’t participate. Of course not. They would lose money. We live on pennies to pay student loans. And have for ten yrs now. I actually hope I die before its paid off. Vultures.

  138. Hi Natalia,
    God or the Universe bless you for your defiance and strength in this struggle that MILLIONS of students are stuck in. I myself have a story to tell. Its too long for a post here, lets just recap,

    High School + Parents + Society + Friends : GO TO COLLEGE. RAH RAH RAH!

    Financial Aid counselors: GO TO COLLEGE, GET A LOAN


    Sallie Mae: All your base are belong to us. Pay up or die!

    So I consolidated all federal and private loans with these jerks.

    I looked through my files and find that the forged signatures, didnt follow their own protocol and triple accounted on specific loans and lied about not consolidating. Why? Because legally speaking, SALLIE MAE IS AN UNSECURED CREDITOR!!!!

    We go to court, I beat them in Arbitration. THEY DIDNT OWN THE DEBT THEY WERE SUING FOR. GASP!!! I WON!!!!

    Until they refiled in a crooked court in New Jersey complete with dirty judges, occult clerks and yah, sounds like bs but its all true. These f-tards even exchanged devil horn signs before commencing proceedings. When I asked the Judge to let me show proof and evidence, he said “I dont have time for that”. So I was bullied into a settlement. I told them with a check, in writing, if and when you receive this check, report as PAID IN FULL to the Credit Bureaus.

    They DID NOT. Sallie Mae is the DEVIL and Albert Lord will have so much bad karma laden unto him and his stupid investors long after he left the company to a new crew of Goons.

    The only good karma part of the story is that Financially speaking they have committed insurmountable amounts of FRAUD. Fraud upon students, the govt, tax payers, and the good part : THEY ARE ACTIVELY COMMITTING FRAUD AGAINST THEIR BOND HOLDERS AND INVESTORS.

    How much of a piece of human garbage do you have to be in order to invest in a company which is shitting on America’s youth? How much of a piece of human garbage do you have to be to work for these devils? ( I am an atheist by the way, actually, closer to Agnostic).

    I would say to you, is your debt Federal (undischargeable) or Unsecured? SLM’s real big secret is that most of their loans, Signature loans are simply unsecured debt nonsense. The legal standing behind this could save millions of students, of all races, that were stuck and tricked like I was.

    Lastly, I want to add my belief in Economic/Spiritual KARMA. Before you think I am crazy, think about this my fellow American….WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN WHEN YOUR CHILD DECIDES TO GO TO COLLEGE? WILL YOU LET THEM SIGN A LOAN WITH SLM???

    Think of the millions in lost future income banks (mortgage co.s), student loan companies, debt collectors and these gruesome Universities will sustain from the children of 80′ and early 90’s babies?

    Love your father for he was there for you. Love your child and spouse and your real friends and live a life full of joy, love and purpose. EFF SLMae. I cant wait till their recently defrauded Bond holders file suit against them. Sallie decided to split into two companies and put all the bad debt onto the investors and all the good debt into a separate company. Hilarious!

    Good Luck,

    Howler P. Smight

  139. I applied for sallie mae loans for my ex-wife. in 2005, I was hit with stage 3 colon cancer and stage 1 melanoma cancer. I have been on disability since 2010. My wife left me in 2009 and I cosigned for the loans. We spent in loans, supplies and living as much as $100,000. I was working and so was she. Unfortunately, fate took a turn and were covered in mud. Sometimes, Ireally feel like I wished I were dead intead of being alive. Now Im a burden on my parents and can hardly even move-Maybe death is the answer-

  140. Death is never an answer. I took $10,000 loan from SM for my masters degree. For my bachelors I worked my ass of in 3 jobs paying $14K and my parents $21K. That was after full scholarship. I went to private school where fees which I had to pay and living expenses were around 5K a semester! Now my mom tells me I have to start helping them because there are in debt because of me. She took a loan to pay different loan of and to spend extra money from larger loan on life, car etc. My parents live in Europe. I don’t know what to do. They blame me for being in debt for around $100K but they helped me only with $26K including plane tickets. I payed myself $14K for under graduate degree and $4K plus $10K in SM debt. My mom blames me for her situation. I am 25 and going trough green card process and I live in US. I will help them when I have stable job. Now my own life is hard. My husband works so hard to pay all our monthly bills, lawyer and student loan. We paid for my moms plane ticket to our wedding. We couldn’t pay for my all family because my husband’s family and me paid for wedding. My family even didn’t help with the wedding. I am so mentally exhausted I can’t sleep because every night I think about what I have to pay, how much etc. I have to say my husband is my great support. Without him I don’t know what I would do.

  141. We have to unite and rally up against Sallie Mae. We must protest en masse. There is no way around this. No other way. We must get organized. All former and current students screwed by the system need to get together. Make a huge petition, get TV’s full attention to the matter. Let’s get together. Only getting together will bring the attention to this. Please contact me:

  142. I’ve been in tears for hours now. I’ve read this post before, and it offers some comfort in knowing that there are so many of us lost and disillusioned. I wish I could give my degree back, I wish I could scream at everyone who pushed so hard for me to go to university but offered no advise or solutions on how to afford it. I wish that the government would’ve offered money towards my education considering our family income was nothing.

    My situation is interesting. About 6 months before graduating, I married a French national. Two weeks after graduating, I moved to France. And so here I am, a year or so later, unemployed and unqualified for even working in a clothing shop (they have degrees for that, in France, you know). And I live in the north, which is the poorest region of the country, so there are no teaching jobs, which is what my degree pertained to and my hopes were. I worked full time for most of my time at college & uni, to pay for my car (to get there), my credit cards (not a lot of debt there, but I needed clothes and such that no one else helped with), and any remaining money went towards groceries and insurance, and paying for painful visits to the podiatrist from out of pocket (around 500$ each visit). Paying interest during school would have been impossible. I have around 60,000 in debt from direct loans, and I took out one, little 16,000 loan with Sallie Mae. In 5 years, that Sallie Mae loan has become around 24,000. Eventually, when I’m able to get my footing here in France, I will have a French bank buy out the loan and an astronomically lower interest rate and be done with it – the direct loans, I’ve realized, I will pay on for the rest of my life, but thanks to the varying repayment plans, I will not starve.

    Two interesting things about student loans and living abroad: NO loan company, government or otherwise, will take payment from a foreign bank account. This makes things interesting as I do not have a US bank account. Another thing, if you’re not actively seeking employment within the US, you do not qualify for deferments, ever – only forbearance. I also, have to call Sallie Mae every time I want to make a payment. They, illegally, use my french bank card with my prior US address to take my payments. They also charge me an additional 15$, every month, to take this payment – payments by phone, non-toll free, with this fee, are the only option Sallie Mae gives me to make my payments. Recently I asked to have my loan placed on forbearance. They withdrew the 50$ fee from my bank account, and they did NOT place it into forbearance. I’ve called twice, non-toll free, and been told multiple reasons as to why this is, from multiple people. Everyone, however, informed me that it was taken care of, I would receive a confirmation email, and the payment would not be due until the date they said. Well, apparently everyone was lying! No emails, and my payment, that I can afford to pay (hence the forbearance, and the fucking fee I couldn’t afford either, but they took) is due in two days.

    Hooray for unemployment, a life of lies in regards to university, a disillusionment I never dreamed I’d ever feel, a depression so deep I can only laugh as if I’m crazy sometimes, and a newly formed alcohol habit. It’s 8:30 am, and after crying for 4 hours, I think it’s cheap whiskey time (my alternative to suicidal thoughts). Cheers.

  143. I have Sallie Mae loans far exceeding what you have above, so let’s preface what I’m about to say. I have sympathy for unending debt.

    Having said that, you BORROWED $37,099.00. While you were going to school you accrued interest, and you probably accrued more interested while you deferred, or whatever you did. That interest that you did not pay during that period totalled $8,786.24. When your repayments began, your new principal balance was $45,885.24. Since your balance 5 years later was $36,059.76, you have actually paid down $9,825.48 in principal.

    As we all know, the beginning of an amortization schedule is more interest and very little principal. As the loan begins to head toward maturity, the proportion of your payment will gradually become more principal. Your balance will begin to accelerate downward as time passes.

  144. College is and investment, and like any investment you hope and pray for a good return on it. When that investment doesn’t pan out good, you are on the hook for the bill if you paid in credit. That is why you can’t(under most circumstances) buy stock on credit. It aided in the downfall we like to call “The Great Depression.” Avoid debt altogether if possible.

    You can get a great job without a college degree or with an Associates from a community college. Experience and hard work count 10 times as much as a degree. You can’t start out at the top, no matter how good your degree is, and we need to debunk the idea that a degree from a more prestigious college means anything more than a state college to your average hiring HR department. Most employers could care less where you went to college as long as you have the degree, and if you can prove experience, almost all of them will forgo that degree.

    Sallie Mae is pretty much a corrupt organization, but so are most all lenders. Now to pay your debt:

    1)Don’t hurt or kill yourself, you can dig your way out of this, I don’t care what anyone says.

    2)When applying for jobs, discredit ALL of the “requirements” listed in the job ads. I’ve never been up to par with the requirements for ANY job, but I’ve always gotten them off of hard work. Obviously you want a job you feel somewhat capable of doing so don’t apply to be an Electrician with a degree in Botany. Pick up side jobs and don’t be afraid to do any job “below your means”. YOU are not special, so don’t ever feel entitled to a great job just because you have a degree. THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE, and bottom line is that the military is almost always accepting. If you can’t find a job in your field, then maybe your field isn’t that open… If you can’t find a job at all? Well, then you are just LAZY.

    3)Imagine your loan as a 1000lb pile of dirt, and every month the loaner shovels another lb of dirt on. You don’t pay on the loan(shovel away dirt) for a while and that dirt builds up… Before you can shovel the original dirt, you have to remove the dirt on top. That is why it doesn’t look like your loan is going down. The more you pay off of it, the more the original ammount will start to go down. Also you have to shovel more off every month than the lender shovels on. To keep it going down. The fact that they will set you up for a plan to pay less than they add on every month is stupid, but you have to be the smart one here and not accept that plan. Keep chipping away at your debt and it will eventually start going down. Get smart about your loan and do the math before you make your payments. Don’t take no for an answer. If you can’t pay off at least that months interest, then find a way to pay it. Drop your phone, cut back your internet speed, forego the hamburger for the cheaper pork chops this week. Live below your means and it will work. You WILL make it through this and it gets easier, the further into it you get.

    4)You can negotiate default medical debt down to cents on the dollar but you can’t negotiate student loan debt away. I don’t believe doctors can turn away patients either, can they? Just think about that one for a bit. Maybe the student loans ARE the smarter ones to pay?

    6)Take charge of your life and quit playing the victim, even when it hurts too much not to. As good or bad as this advice may be, it is worthless if you debunk it and claim there is no out because your stuck or say it’s “mansplaining”, a word which I still don’t know the real meaning of but gets thrown around a lot.

    You are in charge of the choices you make.

    Bottom line?


  145. Interesting point to the article, not to put your well being behind sallie mae. So true. As far as discussion of sucide, regardless of why, remember all of this corrupted system is a symptom of something far more sinister. I know we know that but we can’t lose you. We need you. yes, sallie mae rarely does anything ‘illegal’ but that is even more scary. Wait til they start implementing bills that Obama has been signing. Scary. Also, please be mindful of using blasphemy, it is offensive to some.

  146. I feel compelled to add: can we all agree that the sl lending system is less than ideal. In comparison to the uk commenter for example. What is the next factor now of who becomes what personality traits dictates who will become the most bitterly entrenched? Personally, I think, in general, the least resourceful and higher level of conformity personalities are more inclined. Although agreed that many are in staggering debt with useful and versatile degrees, obviously not to be included.

  147. actually I’d like to take that comment back. That was a judgmental. There are so many factors, and folks just want to do what’s best for their families and themselves. I’m not going to comment on stuff anymore, I always regret what I say after and wonder if it hurt anybody.

  148. To the Thousand of use feeling this way.

    I was thinking about suicide myself due to what SLM has done and continues to do to me and my family. I have had late fees added to my acct even while loan has been in forbearance and other unethical things they have done in the Past.. They always seem to never get the Faxed Deferment or forbearance there is always a reason on there part to cover why they apply all these extra charges on ones account along with many other deviousness that they have knowingly done . I will share more about what I encountered and know it to be illegal in all aspect of the Law. on a later Post I plan to make in a few weeks time once I see if we are going to become the group that will do what ever it takes to get these lawyers involved with our cause.. More info on this will be found below so please continue to read.

    I think we should all get together and get our message and our own experience with this Fraudulent company in the Press and to the legal system.. There must be some lawyers that can help us out of these terrible situation.. There is way to many lives at Risk with these Thief, Scammer’s fraudulent company

    Take the time to communicate ASAP As this should still be fresh in there minds.. I also Urge that you Spread the word to everyone who has ever posted on this blog.. We really need our number to be high in order for this Law firm to take us serious about how big this problem really is nationwide.

    As Individual we are limited in who hears our cries for help and justice.
    Lets also keep ourselves informed via this Great Blog that was started by Natalia Antonova
    We should consult her to see if we should link this blog to a new blog that will be dedicated to All those that will communicate with this firm and for Us to help each other keep informed about the Response we as individuals receive from them.

    Also we must take to other site and post more about this and get all others visiting other sites about our cause. Like for example Screw Sallie Mae As well as any others that you may know about individually get the word out.

    If you really want to be part of the solution than you need to act you need to spread the word and we need to be united while doing this.. It will take a lot, It will take determination, It will take many hours, but we must do it now , We cannot afford to wait to see how many more lives will be lost because of this unfair an Unjust companies business practices.

    Please refer to this unique Inquiry ID is 325274

    I urge you to contact the law offices of Morgan & Morgan

    Main Law office firm
    Direct: 813.275.5278 to Mrs Ponder She was the person that I spoke to about SLM illigalities
    Office: 813.223.5505 to Mr. Yachunis

    John Morgan / is the largest consumer protection and personal injury firm in the Southeast. Our lawyers care about defending your rights.

    People you want to speak with are
    Teresa Ponder | Paralegal
    Mr. Yanchunis / Great Lawyer has gone to Bat against Sallie Mae in the past and WON.

    I have contacted them and tried to explain some of the many issues we have encountered with Sallie Mae. I need you all to contact these folks and urge them to take on the case on our behalf as I feel if we can have many people ask for there help they will.. Even if we need to go as high up in the Firm as to contact Mr John Morgan.
    He is a respected lawyer who really does care about the People.. Please cut and paste what I have written here if you need for them to see how you where made aware of their law office.
    I know as bigger voice about this problem we can have Mr john Morgan law firm do the right thing and help us in getting justice for all the people who have lost their lifes due to Sallie Mae unlawful and in many cases illegal Activities that has and continue to do more harm than good.

    Lets fight these unethical folks at Sallie Mae as group

    Thank you all
    Art .

  149. Actually, that could be an effective answer to the whole mess, *IF* it could be coordinated and you could guarantee near-100% participation. EVERYBODY who owes money to SMF, just stop paying, period. They would convulse a bit, then roll over and die. I’m sure it’ll never happen, but it’s a thought.

  150. Definitely not a fan of SM. Not only did they re-neg on the 6 month grace period after graduation, they started harassing me for payment in at the beginning of my Senior Year. I wound up selling some of my exercise equipment and some collectibles I had a kid to make payments. Even when my school called and told them I was a full time student, they still would not provide the grace period. I had to ultimately use an unemployment deferment to get through my senior year.

    When they hounded me for payment last year, I asked for income based repayment since I only worked part time while in school. They refused, claiming I was “too old” for the program. The next time declined they said I was too young for the program.

    I graduate in a few weeks and here is Sallie Mae again wanting $300 three days before my last final exam. I am interviewing, but no job yet. I applied again for income based repayment. I was accepted this time and the first e-letter I get (which is always on a weekend or on a Federal Holiday when you can not call someone) says my payment is $20 month. The next day they send a letter declining the IBR request and then they want $68 a month. I am thinking, let’s not argue because that is still better than $303 they wanted. Then I get a third ;letter saying they are charging $68 this month and next month they want $680 a month. WTF?

    Is there any other service of Federal loans other than Sallie Mae? I heard that as of Jan 1 (the last time I had problems and got an ombudsman involved) that you had the option of moving your loan to another Federally approved service provider.

  151. I had stopped paying student loans due to debilitating illness these last 8 years. As a single mom, I have taken whatever part-time and on the side kind of jobs I can, when I had the energy and was not too sick. I’ve lost everything including house and car. I’ve had a figure in my head…the $75,000. I owed after interest etc on my original $25,000….dreaming of being able to pay it back….but I just opened a letter saying my loan has been sold and I now owe $176, 852.57. It is ridiculous how they get away with these tactics. I don’t even have a bank account right now. I am contimplating suicide for the first time in my life, because there is no way out of this. I think they want to grind everyone down to a lifeless pulp.

  152. Admitadly, I can’t complain about Sally Mae, but I can agree with the general feeling of being lied to and used by the financial and higher education systems. I came from a “middle class” family, whatever that means, and I was confident that the single best way to get ahead in life was a college education. I was bright, not brilliant, but bright enough to gain admittance to division 1 schools (not ivy league). I choose to go to a cheap local state school instead because my parents couldn’t afford to help with my tuition, but they could offer me housing while I was at school. As far as I could tell i did everything right, Unfortunately I took my time deciding what I wanted to do with my life and ended up with a teaching degree. I have been graduated for just over three years and have yet to find a full time position as a teacher. I was just recently offered a position (for which I would have to move half way across the country), but unfortunately had to decline because the starting salary of $29,000 simply wouldn’t pay my rent as well as my student loans. Currently I live for free with my in-laws and work three jobs to help support myself and my wife. Sadly, this is the financially wiser option at the moment.

    I was raised to take responsibilty for my actions, and I am more than willing to take responsiblity for the money I borrowed and the choice I made to go to college in the first place. It was my mistake, and I consider it just that, a mistake. It was also my mistake to chose a career that I enjoyed and in some small way gave back to the community. These jobs simply don’t make enough money to support the cost of getting the necessary degrees. I am not looking for anyone else to clean up my mess. I am simply appalled that the roughly $45,000 I took out to attend college is now a balance 0f $80,000 and is only going up. I was lied to in high school and college, I was told that it would all be worth it in the end. I was told that college debt is “good debt”, but my personal experience seems to suggest otherwise. There is a very real possibility that my debt will last into what should have ben my retirment (especially when you consider that teacher’s are required by law to continue education throughout their careers).Perhaps my situation cannot be fixed, but I do hope that posts like this could help to stir that changes that need to take place so that the children that I teach over the next sixty years (my wife and I have no plans to have children because we simply can’t afford them) have better options for obtaining financial security. And just maybe they will be able to afford the small house that my wife and I dream of owning one day before we die.

  153. Technically no one ever receives any ‘money’ from any ‘student loan’ did you ever get a check for the amount stated in your hands or your account? certainly a small portion, but the full amount? i highly doubt it. If you read Modern Money Mechanics – available in pdf form online various places, you will find that ‘money’ in fact is without substance but can be a promissory ‘note’ and per Two Faces of Debt all are in fact based on Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) i.e. all are bank ledger, record, or book – computer entries – based on your labor as a corporate serf\slave for all are Federal Reserve Bank Notes – with no substance backing rather perpetual “national debt” – but there is a “way out” if you can get your mind out of the Stockholm’s Syndrome and willing to forgive those “feeding the beast” primarily out of ignorance… Acknowledge only the living – CEO\President as man – without corporate fiction and express willingness to forgive if s\he is willing to “correct the books” for one is a living man only seeing the living, no corpses… corporate “zombies”… and if “no” then hold “him” to the myriad of laws that ‘he’ in fact stands under by his employment – STATE, UNITED STATES, UNITED NATIONS, UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION, and VATICAN as well as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Contract Law – no valid contract (no full disclosure and no meeting of the minds\discussion rather ‘take it or leave it), and lawful trusty law and legal fiduciary TRUST law multiple breaches of trust and TRUST. Keep in mind that the “investors” are the ‘beneficiaries’ while you are the Grantor to the fiduciary TRUST and the School Board are the Trustees – look at the title for the school signatory on you degree – Trustees. Not to leave out the Depository Trust Corp and Delaware Trust Corp – important to research their roles in “money” as well. Separately but of great importance – Securitization is its self “illegal” so when you signed either by hand or digitally – that “note” was in fact securitized upon – if you choose to – you can rake ‘them’ over the coals for it – just have to first call for full disclosure – full ‘forensic audit’ on the “loan”\s for the evidence.- when they refuse – just express, happy to pay – upon evidence proof that said account was properly ‘managed’ and in fact one was afforded full disclosure et al.. And only communicate with corporate ceo\president – or secretary – NOT “customer service” or “account resolution” etc. ‘Man to man” – return all else as “refused with cause” per Universal Postal Union law…

  154. Sallie Mae is a disorganized, unprofessional, flaw-filled poor excuses of a company with scum for workers. Here is my story. In my experience they may make major changes on your account and won’t take the time to notify the borrower. They also completely ignore information you send to them, as with a letter telling them you will be moving abroad for one year to take part in a volunteer program and requesting a deferment. It happened to me. When this happened I had already graduated from a 4 year university and was about to begin payments as it had almost been 6 months. As I was planning to go abroad for one year to take part in a volunteer program, I sent them a letter telling that and also asking for a one year deferment. On the phone call I made they sure enough confirmed the deferment for one year so I thought I would be fine as I would be back in one year. Little did I know that they had made major changes on my account that had nothing to do with the letter I sent them. What happened was I had taken a summer school class at a community college that summer I was planning to leave the country. So at Salliemae they had completely changed everything, specifically changing my status back to being a student that will be graduating all over again and this time from a community college, hence the deferment they granted, completely unrelated to my real plans and not the deferment I was asking for in the letter sent , the letter they chose to completely ignore. So I go abroad for one year just to come back to a tarnished credit record. Be careful if you have to use Salliemae as a lender. They will make major changes on your account without notification or verification, and they will completely ignore letters you send to them, even letters with vital information telling them you are moving to another country and need a deferment. In trying to get this corrected I also ran into some real scum. Some workers at Salliemae need to be fired and an overhaul needs to take place with this poor excuse of a company. Workers there are careless, unethical and won’t really want to help you. Best not to deal with this unprofessional, disorganized and flaw-filled company, so if at all possible I would advise any potential borrower to borrow from a different lending company.

  155. WOW!!! Well what can I say but that Sallie Mae has ruin so many lives..
    My story is simple I paid off my loan back in 2008, we are in 2014 and im still getting calls from a collection company stating that I still own $12,000.. I have faxed mailed you name it gone above and beyond to send these ppl all my info. But somehow I do not know who is not getting it. To the point that they have contacted me again this week asking for a payment. I was straight forward with her and I told her that I was not going to pay double on a loan that was paid off in 2008. She told me that I could take a loan out from my husbands 401k to pay off Sallie Mae…That’s not even legal. Well so in their books I owe $12,000, In my books I owe NOTHING!!!!!

  156. Natalia, don’t pay them a penny more. SallieMae is a broken system that doesn’t work other than to take advantage of people and ruin lives. Everyone should come together and not pay a penny more to this criminal organization that SallieMae is. With everyone coming together to do this, they can be driven out of business and that’s what needs to happen. They screwed me as well as many people I personally know. They are criminal, unethical, and have some real scum working for them.

  157. i hear you, and wholly agree with your position on this. Those that would disagree with you are either profiting from the situation, or brainwashed by those who do profit from the situation.

  158. I have a solution. How about WE ALL JUST STOP PAYING SALLIE MAE!!! Every single one of us!! They will be forced to end this madness! If everyone stops paying, Sallie Mae and whomever their creditors are will go BANKRUPT. Don’t pay them a penny. I have stopped months ago and they have threatened to do this and that blah blah. If I can’t pay, I can’t pay. I need my money to live and survive and eat in this world. Not everyone was a trust fund baby with money in their parents’ bank accounts. We had to pay way too much money just to be educated in this country, and that is just complete nonsense. If I had known other countries did not charge students like the US does, I would have tried elsewhere! Let’s all just STOP PAYING! What’s more important Sallie Mae or a roof over your head/health/sanity??!!

  159. This has been brought up before, but actually, this is not an impossible idea. It could be done, but it would require nationwide coordination. It would need large scale publicity, far in advance, say 6 months. There would be a need to confirm that a large number of people would participate, so you wouldn’t have just a few do it and then get slaughtered. For example, there could be a web site where people could sign up to participate. Remember, SMF services tens of millions of student loans. A few thousand non-payers would be a drop in the bucket, only hurting themselves. This would need to be a large scale, nationwide project.

  160. You think you have it bad. My story beats them all. I have been paying on my Student Loan since January 2000 and my total owed has gone up and yet I never got any other Student Loans. It went up because of the interest rate and the fact that I can only pay the Minimum payment amount.

    here is my Loan information:

    Original balance: $46,802.48
    Disbursement date: 11/08/1999
    First payment due date: 01/07/2000
    Current Loan balance: $53,410.55
    Minimum Payment Due: $456.75
    Number of Payments through 11/2014: 165
    Total Paid to Sallie Mae through 11/2014: $75,363.75
    My loan increased by $6,608.07 due to Interest over the last 14 years.

    At this rate I will NEVER pay off my Student Loan I am now 55 years old and I will take this loan to my grave. My only hope is they don’t try and sock my wife or children with it.

  161. I know this comment may not be welcome, but perhaps it will be helpful.

    From your screenshot, the actual loan balance you’ve been paying off is —

    37,099.00 +
    8,786.24* =

    Your 23, 449.65 worth of payments over 5 years has reduced that balance by a shade under $10,000. From a back-of-the-envelope calculation, it’ll take up to 15 more years to pay them off, which isn’t forever, but is certainly a long ways away.

    But don’t get me wrong, private student loans suck. It’s unfortunate that you had to take them out, and its more unfortunate that your current situation doesn’t allow for paying them comfortably.

    You may have some options if you aren’t currently in default though. You might be able to consolidate them into a Federal loan that you can then get an income-based repayment plan for. Even if they reduce your payment amounts and your principal doesn’t go down, you’ll be eligible for forgiveness once you’ve made a certain number of payments. Check out the info (and contact line) here:

    *Just FYI — “capitalized interest” is absolutely part of the principal amount of your loan. If you did a deferral, that total probably increased quite quickly during that time. However, the entire time you were in school this amount was building as well (unless you made loan payments while in school). Most everyone has some capitalized interest on their student loans upon repayment — Sallie Mae is just being a bit confusing by pulling that number out.

  162. HELP ME PLEASE!! I was overpaid by the gibill in 2005 I filed bankruptcy back in 2006-2007 the overpayment was included in the bankruptcy and was discharged. From what I’ve been told they needed to file paperwork with the courts when I filed the bankruptcy if they didn’t then its discharged. They didn’t file the paperwork. I’ve filed a waiver and sent a copy of bankruptcy papers to the debt management back in 2008 when they tried taking my whole check I was refunded my check and haven’t heard anything till now about it and now they are taking my whole check which is my only income I’ve disputed this and tried making a payment plan until I can prove that it was discharged and they are denying my hardship saying I didn’t file in time and saying the debts nondischargeable which I did file the hardship paperwork when I was contacted about it. One lady said she seen it and only a small amount was approved but the other ppl I talk to say they don’t see anythingI don’t know what to do because they deny everything please help you can contact me by email that I just made

  163. I actually chose to stop making payments a while ago. I’ve heard the horror stories. I know what everyone will say. “The debt is multiplying. You’re destroying your credit. You’ll never be able to buy a car.” and on and on. All of that is true, I know. I’m not a fool. I also know that the very worst threats (wage garnishment and bank account garnishment) are never going to happen. I make too little. I am below that poverty line where the most they could ever garnish from me would be 15%, and even that is damn unlikely. The payments were so high that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t care if they took a 15% garnishment from me. Still better than what I was paying.

    And the credit score? So what. That only matters to people who plan on using their credit score to take loans or rent apartment, or work for anal, privacy invading employers who want to know your credit score. I do none of those things and probably won’t. There is always a way to rent from private individuals, month-to-month, who don’t give a damn what your score is. I buy used cars on craigslist and always have. Not only do I not plan to buy a home, I would NEVER buy property because I consider is a shackle, trapping you in one place at the whim of the resale market. No, thanks.

    But the biggest reason was that, like you, I saw the writing on the wall. I was never going to pay it off. I would be in my forties, maybe even fifties before it was done and I had paid them somewhere around 3 or 4 times the original loan amounts. Meanwhile, I would be broke for life. Always strapped, never being able to do anything with my money to further improve myself and my life, because I would always have to hold back so much for the damn loans. I would rather die in debt, quite frankly. I’m not married, never will be, and I have no kids. No one is going to be saddled with my debt when I’m gone. It will just disappear

  164. All of this is great…people talking and what not, sharing their stories. Even that asshole, Guest or whatever his name was is useful because he illustrates the sort of twat you’ll encounter and their typical arguments. However, we can all cry about how horrible and unfair and rigged it all is (and it certainly is!), which means nothing, or we can act. I have acted. My loans were exactly as many on this site, totally out of control and unpayable and slowly crushing me. I was, essentially, a slave/indentured servant to corporate America. But I found the strength to leave America. I no longer call that place home. They failed me and tried to use me and so I decided, against my cultural conditioning, to reject that place. So I owe them nothing. Like my immigrant forefathers, I left in search of a better life, fleeing oppression and a rigged game. And, I have found it and am working hard to integrate in my new society as my great great grandfather did in America so many years ago; they would be proud of me I am sure. Fuck you Sallie Mae and the US government that allows you to exist. You broke my social contract with the United States of America and I have left you. Good riddens. What I am now wondering is…who else would like to leave? We should set up a student loan railroad to help those Americans with unbareable debt leave… US Student Loan RailRoad? Long ago they broke the social contract…now act. Although I am of modest means, I would love nothing more than to help another escape…

  165. The physical land commonly called America has nothing to do with ‘politics’ nor ‘religion’ nor ‘commerce’ et al. It is the living men that move said fictional corporations and the in fact self expressed “… body politic and corporate…” falsely construed as government but by blind faith and belief that it is such. Technically any “… body corporate…” can fall under Clearfield Doctrin and those that self educate on “money” not only lawful vs legal but also the original or genuine “money” being any thing from nature as well as by one’s hand which is without debt compared to ‘legal’ which is both nothing other than ‘debt’ but also double entry book keeping as such a part of the song, “Grand Illusion” by Styx. One can easily come lost in “government” law as well as “legal” and other law forms such as state vs State vs STATE and united States for America vs United States from United States of America… said Constitutions separate from each respective corporate charter… My own focus is more unique and focuses on the difference between one’s lawful given name separate from the STATE and or CORPORATE created ‘legal’ VESSEL or ENTITY all uppercase NAME per federal and postal laws. More information is available denoting clear mail fraud
    The use of fictious names or addresses (ALL CAPITAL LETTERS) in a private individual’s or natural person or man’s name, or a ZIP CODE, against the man\womb’s wishes, is a crime under Title 39 U.S.C. Section 3003, Title 18 U.S.C. 1302, 1342, and it punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and $1 million dollar fine.
    The use of ZIP CODES is voluntary per Domestic Mail Services Regulation Section 122.32. No discrimination for the NON-USE of the ZIP CODE per Public Law 91-375, Section 403. The use of fictious names or addresses (ALL CAPITAL LETTERS) in a private individual’s or natural person or man’s name, or a ZIP CODE, against the man\womb’s wishes, is a crime under Title 39 U.S.C. Section 3003, Title 18 U.S.C. 1302, 1342, and it punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and $1 million dollar fine. See also “Postal Reorganization Act,” Section 403, Public Law 91-375.
    The federal government uses the Zip Code to prove that one resides in a “federal district of the District of Columbia.” This is why the IRS and other government agencies both state and federal require a zip code when they assert jurisdiction by sending you a letter. Though they claim its use is to speed the mail, it is a well planned and subtle trick. It is PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE that you are a subject of Congress and a “citizen of the District of Columbia,” who is “resident” in one of the 50 several states or state franchises to U.S. or D.C. U.S. “residency” was, along with U.S. “citizenship,” established by the 14th Amendment which was technically never fully vetted rather by military coo or political coo shoved down every one’s throat. The definition of the words “resident” and “inhabitant” mean the same thing per 27 Fed. Case Number 16,024 U.S. V Penelope 1508. Since nearly all exercise of jurisdiction by federal government is “Commerce Clause” based, action by the feds may only be taken upon U.S. Residents. A resident is one who registers a business or takes any step preparatory to piracy per U.S. Definition of ‘commerce’ being mass production and direct product mark up with no consideration to overhead or wages for which the direct mark-up is considered “income”.
    Important to integrate the above with full administrative process using
    Upon completion research “non commercial lein,” “default judgement” and “warrant” or “Decree” or “Order” to create and provide along with one’s full administrative process documentation to ‘civil’ or ‘district’ Judge for review and signature – authorizing local Sherriff to assist you with enforcement.
    Note that all ‘government’ not only being ‘body corporate’ is also self expressed as “trustee” as such hold ‘them’ preferably Mayor and or Governor being “heads of state” above all ‘department’ to their DUTY as “trustee” being above “judge” “sherriff” etc. as top level military commander in fact as well as trustee.

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