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Virginia

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

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Derek

I finished law school in Pennsylvania in 1998.
I never received a summer internship/clerkship and due to family problems back home I only worked part time in the summers for solo-practicioners.
When I graduated, I moved to California but never got any job offers.
So I moved back to Virginia and "temp'ed" at big lawfirms in D.C. 
I got paid $10-15/hr to move boxes and file papers in a suit.
It was mind numbing and had NO potential to grow into a good job.
I had passed the VA bar exam too, but without a summer clerkship, nobody would hire me.
I left to work in the booming Internet field in 2000, but my company was bought by WorldCom which ended up going bankrupt and I was laid off in 2002.
I paid my loans up until that point, but after being harassed while unemployed and having them capitalize my interest every time I took a deferment, I gave up.
I took out $80k in Federal loans and needed an additional $20k in private loans to cover living expenses for the 3 years while in school.
Now my loans are in default, I still don't have a job or a career path.
While I was in major job hunt mode, I was rejected for being too nice, requesting too much salary, and even at Starbucks I was rejected since I came from the Corporate world instead of the restaurant industry!
During all of this, I developed severe clinical depression and contemplated suicide since my life appeared to have all but stopped.
I have started my own business and I am doing OK, but now I am being sued for some of my loans. 
I don't have any savings and the only thing I own is a car which might be taken to satisfy part of the judgment for my outstanding loans.
Bankruptcy was meant to give people in dire need a fresh start, and that is exactly what I need.  If nobody will hire me in my profession that I went to school for, and my backup profession didn't pan out, I could use some assistance, not a demand for the FULL amount!
I have no idea what the future holds for me and I feel embarrassed for my family and friends that I am in this situation.  I was just trying to better myself and instead I am FAR worse off than if I had not even gone to college!  A simple life is all I want.  But the ridiculous size of my loan payments compared to my earnings make just eating a struggle.  If it were not for friends and family I would not be here today, but I am tired of being a burden.  And sometimes the only way I can stop thinking I am being a burden is to .....
Thanks US Government and Sallie Mae for turning a creative, intelligent, funny, & athletic human being into a suicidal piece of societal detritus. At least they will have to write off my loans when I am gone.

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Witheld

I had $92,000 in federally guaranteed student loans from the mid 90's.   I defaulted after I lost my job and had to survive as a single parent.   I recently contacted Sallie Mae who holds my loans, and they told me to contact a company called GC Services out of Houston.   They told me that I now owe  $167,000!!!   The representative at GC Services was rude and abusive and threatened everything that she could think of!   I can't believe that these private companies are ripping us all of with the blessings of the Federal Government.   This is outrageous and puts all of us into a bind with the "system".   In fact GC Services told me that they would continue to ruin my credit rating, which keeps me from applying for many positions.    This "robbery" has to be stopped.    They don't care that they ruin people's lives and get away with practices that no other lenders are allowed to!

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Katherine

II began my program with Union Institute and University in Washington D.C. at UIU's "Office for Social Responsibility" (1710 Rhode Island Ave. NW #110) and at the Governor’s House Hotel (1615 Rhode Island Ave.) which were clearly noted as sites in their student handbook/program overview, a book describing what they termed their "low-residency" Doctoral program. A series of events and complaints have transpired from the time I enrolled to this point, so I will recap.

The History: Within the first year of my enrollment, I experienced difficulties completing my program in their system. This delay was due to my committee Chair who refused to work with other instructors, an administration that delayed in signing off on paperwork, and delays in arranging meetings with committee members across the country, ALL out of the my control. My chair spent a good time discrediting other faculty members and holding up progress because she was at odds with 'the mission and interpretation of the institution.' (I have an email that supports this.) In addition, my Chair referred to academic benchmarks and financial aid deadlines as “artifacts of external pressure,” meaning I should disregard them as she obviously did.

As the school delayed my progress, they continued to charge full tuition (about $15,000 per year plus materials, travel, etc.). I attempted to resolve these issues at the instructor, school, and administrative levels with no results, all the while the school was collecting my loan monies. The lack of response forced me to file complaints through various agencies including the U.S. Department of Education.

While still enrolled in the program, I heard back from the D.C. Office of Regulatory Affairs and was told both verbally and in writing that the school did not have a license to operate in Washington, D.C. (see enclosed email). The school "administratively withdrew" me when I brought up the licensure problem. The school then closed all sites that were unlicensed, more than 15 across the country and some internationally.

My administrative withdrawal was a clear case of retaliation. In fact, I went to an attorney who stated, "they were clearing the decks of liability." When the attorney attempted to have me reinstated, the school said that based on the DOE review, the program had changed, that I would have to start again and pay all over again. I have no transcript with which I can transfer or that I can use on my resume, and the school never offered a plan to make my program work reasonably or efficiently.

The Department of Education indicated that they do not have authority over the school’s program and basically decided to view it as an “academic” issue. However, the DOE permitted the school to disburse Title IV funds to students attending unlicensed sites, even though to qualify for Title IV, the Higher Education Act clearly reads that the school must be in compliance with State and local law. Obviously, schools with unlicensed sites are not in compliance with State and local law, and therefore, should not be able to disburse Title IV funds for that school’s programs. And without attending the entry colloquium in Washington, D.C. I could not have begun the program in the first place.

The accreditation agency wanted more information on the school’s program but indicated it could do nothing for me regarding tuition paid. And of course, Sallie Mae has reaped the benefits as the lender and has refused to discharge the loan. The buck has essentially passed from agency to agency, and I have been left with the debt and nothing to show for it.

Current: As a result of student complaints, between 2000 and 2003, the Department of Education investigated the University (headquartered in Cincinnati), and in April of 2003, froze their Title IV funding until audits/changes were completed. In addition, UIU's Ohio Board of Regents placed UIU on "Provisional" status for re-authorization, and the accreditation agency, NCA, investigated their operations. UIU is in the process of selling off their Vermont campus, and they have since changed their program policies and descriptions, including the way they structure billing and financial aid. Students currently enrolled must go through the Ohio Board of Regents in order to graduate (indicating significant changes in oversight and curriculum soon after I was “withdrawn”). The D.C. Office of Attorney General recently contacted me to try to open negotiations with the school, but given their hostile response history, I suspect they will not offer restitution.

My student loans from UIU now total more than $50,000 for the 2.5 years in which I was enrolled (2000-2002). UIU authorized these loans knowing they were not licensed in D.C. which essentially meant I was left with no consumer protection after trying to resolve the issues because from the perspective of the various agencies, including the D.C. Office of Regulatory Affairs, the place never existed.

My complaints from 2000 to present have included a history of my program, the school's unwillingness to provide a viable learning experience, and their breaching of regulations in any number of areas including civil rights, academic requirements, and business practices. I provided proof of these violations, as did other students, and since the school has had to make changes and had actions taken against them, we can assume the complaints and allegations were valid. This does not help my situation, nor have the agencies involved.

Right now, I am in a period of forbearance. The interest on the loans continues to accrue. More than half of my outstanding loans are for the program at Union. This issue has prevented me from advancing in my career as well as impacted my financial and personal well-being.

Prior to this, I was an “A” student. I have never had an academic issue or problems completing my programs of study. I hold an M.Ed. and work as a contract distance education teacher for a private college and for my county. I have two elementary, school aged children, both of whom have special (cognitive) needs. I am not contesting the legitimacy of the loans for my Masters program, nor have I ever wished to go into default.

I have taken whatever measures I could to prevent default. I am someone who believed in the importance and credibility of education and the student loan system, and I believed that if an institution is accredited, it should be legit. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Union Institute. I have written to every agency and representative I could research. I cannot afford to retain an attorney.

I have written to every agency and representative I could research.

I hope your organization can make a difference.

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Nancy

In short...through a screw-up at Virginia Commonwealth College Student Aid Dept. in 1984, caused by a new computer system, those of us who were expecting Pell Grants never received them.  I was entering my senior year, and faced with the dilemma of accepting 4-5 student loans to cover my very expensive Art History curriculum, I was forced to either accept private loans or drop out.  I don't recall the amounts of the loans but I believe they were each $2500.00.

I was an honor student with a 3.7 gpa at that point and I could not drop out.  Upper level classes were only offered once a year which would have meant waiting an entire year to pick up where I left off.   I accepted the loans and my life became a hell forever afterwards.

Because of another mix-up with my expected graduation date the lenders began billing me for loan repayments before I had even graduated. The loans were being bought out by other banks. I don't know for sure WHO got the loans but one of them originated from Wachovia.  I sent several letters and made phone calls trying to correct the misinformation but the past-due letters continued.  By the time I graduated later that year one of my loans was already in default.   My first job paid only $11,500.  The second paid $13,000 and by the time I had found a better job (at $18,000) I was behind in the other loans and writing letters furiously to stall them off so that I could take the $18,000 bank job offered me.  If there was a hint of non-payment on my credit I would not have gotten the job. 

As a bank exec trainee I was expected to dress a certain way.  We were even told what kinds of cars to drive, where we could hang out and how to behave.  At $18,000 I could not afford to dress well because I was barely able to pay my rent. All of my suits came from a consignment shop called "The Hall Tree" which saved my neck.  I could buy a designer label business suit for about $30.00.  I struggled very hard to maintain my outer appearance.   My electricity was cut off for a month during my year of training.    I went to work with wet hair and couldn't wash my clothes.  People in the bank began to talk and it seriously affected my performance which required extreme focus with no mistakes.  If we lost one cent (just one) during teller training we were fired.  If we overdrew our accounts at the bank we would be fired.   Every month I wrung my hands as I worried incessantly that I would overdraw by $1.00.  One time I realized I was going to overdraw and borrowed $20.00 to rush to the night depository so that my check would clear.  I became the subject of whispers among my superiors and was the worst performer on the team.   As a high achiever and honor student this was humiliating.

Things to worse: My old car broke down and I was forced to take a cab to work.  I could not afford the cab fare plus I couldn't get to work on time.  There I was in my rumpled, dirty clothes with wet hair and not a dime in my pocket.  It was anathema to my advancement.

I made it, through sheer determination, to graduation from that program but shortly afterwards was asked to resign.  I had worked the hardest of all of the 11 people on my team and I know that to be true because while my teammates were out having a good time I was at home studying.  I deserved better but my career spiraled downwards and part of it was due to lack of funds.

After being fired I had to take temporary work - anything to bring in money quickly.  My income dropped  and there was no regular income.  I did make some payments and managed to pay off 3 of them.  Friends helped pay off one loan but they couldn't pay the last couple.   I received 2 judgements.  My lawyer, a college buddy who did it for me for free, asked the court not to enforce the judgement but my credit was ruined anyway. I began to dodge calls from lenders as I continued to struggle just to make ends meet. 

By that time (5 years after graduation) I didn't know who owned the loans.  I didn't have anyone to advise me.  Someone said that Sallie Mae could have helped me (?) but by then the loans were either paid or defaulted.


For the past 18 years I have lived in a netherland.  I didn't want anyone to know my address.   I was never able to buy a decent car or rent anywhere because I didn't have any credit. I got a friend to sign a lease for me so I'd have my own place but my income as a temp was undependable.   When the lease expired  I moved in with a man who paid the rent which relieved me of that burden.  He was not a very nice person but it was either stay with him and have the bills paid or end up on the street.  Still, I wouldn't give up trying.

I found a full time job plus a weekend job to try to break the cycle of poverty but even that wasn't enough to pay my bills because my income wasn't high enough.  I became ill and had to have surgery. Thank heavens I had medical insurance but I still owe the Medical College of Va. some money because insurance didn't cover all of it.

I am still living with the same person who knows that he can say or do just about anything to me and I won't leave because I have nowhere to go. If I could lease an apartment or buy my own house I would leave tomorrow.

There must be millions of people in similar situations to mine, especially women.  When I started college I thought that I would graduate, find a well-paying job, work hard and achieve the American Dream.  It didn't happen.  Nobody I know intended to accept a loan and not pay it.  At the time I accepted the loans I had no idea I wouldn't make enough money after graduation to pay them off.   If my remaining loan would be written off, and the Dept. of Education would stop harrassing me, I would be a free woman.  My credit could be repaired.  I'm almost at retirement age and I'm weary of living like in this shadowland, unable to enjoy any of the niceties of life.

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Shaun

My story may not fit the stereotype, but is interesting just the same.  I was a Vietnam Era servicemember, and as such, was under the impression I would have all education benefits paid with no questions asked.  I went to a Semi-truck driving course in Texas in 1987, after getting out of the military.  At first, I believed I had no obligation to pay this, after over 10 years of active duty service. 
  The original amount of the loan was just $5300, but is now over $15,000, with interest and fees included.  I have not paid one cent back, though I have been hassled over the years.  I have not had an income tax refund since 1990.  Every so often, I will take a call from a company which is handling my loan, but the conditions noted for payback is not really set up to pay the loan:  they just want to figure out your source of income, so that they may garnish that source of income.  Fortunately, the home I live in is an inheritance, and thus, they are unable to place a lien on the house.


  In one conversation, an attempt was made to intimidate me, by noting, this is the US Government, which is attempting to collect a debt.  I advised them to check with DOD, as I completed my part of the bargain, by virtue of my 10 years of military service, to which I was advised that was no longer valid.  I was told my Social Security payments in the future would be garnished, to which I advised, this would not be a factor, as the overwhelming majority of black men do not live long enough to collect.  Needless to say, I have not heard from them in over a year.


  The thing is, I would love to pay this loan off, and restore my credit, but I could tell you about a cousin, who negotiated a deal to pay back a student loan, made a total of 6 payments, and now is being threatened with garnishment, even as she is fulfilling the requirements as negotiated.  It seems no matter what is negotiated, loan holders feel no shame in doing their best to make ones' live miserable.  The only payment acceptable would be a complete one time pay off, and when I have enough money, I will.  Until then...

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Witheld

Mine is a somewhat different story -- a story of a greedy company that doesn't want to let one of its paying customers go.

I am not in default. In fact, I have paid off my most recent student loans -- FFLEP loans for $18,500 for additional post-graduate ecudation -- TWICE according to my original loan agreement, my disclosure and repayment schedules (2 of them), and Sallie Mae's own payment history records.

Nonetheless, Sallie Mae has been insisting -- without any serious investigation, analysis, or explanation -- for over 6 months that I continue to owe them over $1,400. Their approach to resolve the dispute is to consciously ignore my letters and attached proof of satisfaction of my loans, not to mention their own records, and ramp up their abusive debt collection practices. Their interim replies say keep making payments while they investigate; and they won't cease the collection tactics unless I sign a forebearance agreement . . . i.e., admit that I owe a debt that I cannot pay at this time. . . neither of which is true.

I paid my debt in full according to my loan agreement, each of the 2 separate repayment schedules, and their annual letters adjusting the payment amount. But, since April of 2006 - that's when the 120th payment automatically came out of my account under the original repayment schedule -- when I stopped automatic paymets toward my loan, I have been stuck in a surreal situation, a virtual "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" with Sallie Mae. They keep shooting me bills, tacking on late fees, unleashing the loan guarantor, and most recently a collection agency . . . all for a debt I don't owe.

I shoot back letters with my original loan agreement, the 2 repayment schedules, my 10-year payment history from their own records, all proving that I have paid my loan under each repayment schedule and that Sallie Mae actually owes me money. Their failure to seriously review and understand these documents and their aggressive collection tactics all the while, is Sallie Mae's way of saying "Agreements? . . . We don't need no agreements. We don't have to pay attention to any of your stinking agrements, payment schedules, or payment histories. We're Sallie Mae."

In short, I began paying the above loans back, to Edu Serv at the time, in April 1996 per a repayment schedule that called for 120 payments of $240.54 for a total amount of $28,864.80. The first payment due under this schedule was due on 05/01/1996. I made all payments early to on-time with payments on average being about 25 days early.

Then, in December 2006 I received a revised repayment schedule from EduServ. The revised schedule called for 107 payments of 248.96 beginning on 01/10/1997 for a new total amount of $26,638.72. I made all 107 payments under this schedule. Under this schedule, my loan should have been paid off in October 2005. Sallie Mae kept taking monthly payments out of my account (another $925) until I stopped payments in April 2006.

After 10 years of 120 consecutive payments under these repayment schedules, Sallie Mae claims I still owe them money. They -- per their internal Ombudsman -- also claim they cannot turn off the collection process while they take months to figure out what went wrong. They will only do so If I sign a forebearance agreement.

The latest word from the Ombudsman is they've figured out their mistakes, they're going to remove late fees and credit me for interest they over charged me, but (according to them) I still owe them money. I told the Ombudsman that I want it explained in writing, but to inform Sallie Mae's management that this is unacceptable. Sallie Mae needs to hold itself accountable for any mistakes it may have made, not the customer who made all payments (all 107 and/or 120) as they instructed.

Lesson Learned for those paying their loans diligently: Don't just accept their written word each year regarding the amount of your new monthly payments. Make them show you how they figured your new payment each year and how it correlates to your repayment schedule and, particularly, the total number of payments due under that schedule. They make mistakes, and they'll do their darndest to hold you responsible and accountable for them, so hold their feet to the fire first. Make them get every detail right up front!


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Kathy

After reading all these stories, I see that I am in good company.  I grew up in WV and was the first of my family to go to college.  I thought that in our great country all our offered an education and if you are smart enough and work hard enough, college is available to all.  It is, but at a huge cost.  Unfortunately, I thought I could borrow the money and I could pay it back.  My balance has grown since I have been out of school since I have qualified for financial hardship deferments.  I am in my forties now and have never defaulted.  I hold on to the thought that when I die, these loans are forgiven.  That makes me happy.  This huge amount will hound me till the day I die and I will keep paying---like I said, until I absolutely cannot. I have never been in default; though I have often qualified for deferments.  But as you know, when in deferment,the loan keeps going up and up and up.  Like I said, some day I will not owe the Student Loan Lender---that will be when I die.  I just thought though, I guess I will have to die before I get Social Security since they will take the student loan payment out of that, and then there will be nothingto live on.  I am working class and not wealthy at all.  No savings.  Maybe we were fooled into going to college after all---though I thank God for my knowledge--I am smarter, though there is not a direct corrolation between education and high income.



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Akeembra

My story isn't any different than the others here. I borrowed a little over $20,000 from Sallie Mae (when I am done paying back my loans I will have paid nearly triple that amount) to get an education which I was sure would guarantee that I obtained a decent paying job right out of college. Boy was I living in a dream world. Soon after graduation Sallie Mae started sending the letters. Hence my hell on Earth began. It's really sad when you have to choose between grocery shopping and paying back student loans. I've been late twice and both times my parents were at the receiving end of Sallie Mae's nasty calls and letters. One time they even called my grandmother to "find out where I was" (as if they hadn't just called me AT WORK to harass me the day before). This has got to stop. There has to be something we can do. I have a loan thru another company (NelNet) and they are not nearly as bad as Sallie Mae.

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B.A.

I made it through undergrad college without problems. I took out federal loans, did work-study jobs on campus and worked a part-time job. I paid off about $2,000 in debt when I graduated from my state school in 1982.

In 1987, I decided to go to graduate school. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I expected my "business" degree would allow me to enter into a nice job with a good salary. Using primarily private loans, I racked up about $90,000 in debt. I was horrified at how much money I owed. But in the midst of school, I decided to finish and try to deal with my situation. My debt was over $100,000 when I finished.

I graduated in 1990, into one of the worst job markets in decades, and could not find a job in my field. I obtained a deferment but the debt just kept growing. I was earning about $3,000 a month, but the loan payments the borrowers wanted was more than half of that. Faced with either having an apartment and food or paying the loans, I chose shelter and food.

As I fell further and further behind, the letters and calls from the debtors became overwhelming. My debt kept rising - closer to $125,000 with penalties and interest. And my job search did not go well. Finally, in 1992, I declared bankruptcy. While some of my student debt was wiped out, the law at that time did not permit student debt to be discharged unless you had already been paying for seven years. I hadn't, so I was stuck.

Then, the banks began selling and reassigning my notes all over the country. I could not even keep track of who I owed, how much or what the payments were.

The worst of the lot was HEMAR in South Dakota. They were relentless, threatening, demanding and nasty. I had bill collectors call me and threaten to sue me if I didn't come up with a $10,000 payment in 10 days. Others threatened to take away my driver's license or any professional license I held. None of this was true, of course.

So, by 1994, my credit was ruined and I had a debt of more than $150,000. I had found work by then, but was earning about $40,000. After taxes, again, I barely had enough to pay my own living expenses. I didn't even own a car for 3 years. And the demand letters keep coming.

Recently, Sallie Mae has created a new debt collection group called Arrow Financial and they have been calling daily, sometimes three times a day, since April or May. The collectors are like robots, they read scripts and demand payments but have no flexibility nor inclination to hear anything I have to say.

I live in an apartment, I cannot buy a house. I have a 1990 car. And I have a $150,000 debt still hanging over my head. It cannot be discharged, it cannot be removed and I cannot pay it.

I have become resigned that I will probably die with this debt still on my name. Taking out those loans was the worst mistake in my life. If there was a do-over, I would have much rather stayed in other careers without an advanced degree or gone to state schools, worked and paid my way as I went.

But in the 80s, everyone said you should get the additional degree and worry about paying later. Sign the papers.

So I did.

 


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