***UPDATE*** April 2011: Sallie Mae continues to charge this fee, and because I have not paid it, my loans are currently in "deliquent" status, which has thoroughly wrecked my credit.
They refuse to compromise, so I am still left with no choice but to pay the fee or default on my loans.
***UPDATE*** The pressure is getting to Sallie Mae! On Thursday February 2, I delivered 76,000 petition signatures to their Washington, DC office. Less than three hours later they changed their policy so that they no longer simply pocket the unemployment penalty -- but they're still charging it
I'm amazed that we've made this kind of progress against a financial behemoth like Sallie Mae, but it's also clear that their action wasn't enough. It does nothing to help borrowers like me who are in real financial trouble. Sallie Mae isn't going to get rid of us by offering weak half-measures.
If we can keep up the pressure, we can get exactly what we asked for - an end to their greedy unemployment penalty. You can help: please sign my petition and share it with everyone you know right away.
Read on to learn more about my struggle.
I'm Stef, a recent graduate of a public college who took out private student loans through Sallie Mae before the credit crunch. Despite my school's relatively low tuition and my full-time job, I still needed the extra help in order to pay for my rent, utilities, and groceries because my parents had passed away. Sallie Mae loaned me money with a 9.75 percent interest rate because I didn't have anyone who could co-sign.
I graduated in May 2011 with honors, but even with an advanced degree in a technical field, I still haven't found full-time work. I'm doing everything I can to avoid defaulting on my loans, but Sallie Mae has charged me hundreds of dollars in extra fees because I've had to delay my payments (called forbearance).
Federal loans allow the unemployed to defer payments without any fees, so the same kindness is not too much to ask from America's largest private lender.
Since then, I've already had to pay $300 to Sallie Mae in these "forbearance fees." ($50 per loan for every 3 month block. Consolidation is not an option.) Not a dime has gone to help pay down my loan principal. Meanwhile, the interest on my loans keeps growing -- meaning that Sallie Mae will cash in two times -- once with the extra fees they're charging me, and again when I pay the interest that accrues as I look for work.
As an unemployed person desperately looking for work, I need every extra dollar I have to pay for rent, electricity and groceries. But Sallie Mae is preying on people like me and cashing in on the fact that we need more time to find work before we can repay our student loans.
If I don't find full-time work before the end of January, Sallie Mae is going to charge me another $150 in "forbearance fees" -- while my total debt continues to grow by approximately $1,200.
Please join me in asking Sallie Mae to stop double-dipping. Sign my petition calling on Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord to stop charging forebearance fees to unemployed students wishing to avoid default.