In December, 2002, I graduated from Kent State University with a BA in Secondary Education. I borrowed a total of $17,000 from federal loan programs. Later, I completed my Elementary Education certification/endorsement for greater employability and then, a few years later, my Masters in Curriculum & Instruction in Education. Because I didn’t wish to acquire additional debt, I paid cash for these added degrees. However, when I married and the payments were still high, my then-husband and I were approached to consolidate our combined loans as a couple at a lower interest rate and payment. We bit. Worst thing I’ve ever done.
In 2005, I divorced. Everything was split—everything, that is, except for these consolidated loans, which, I’m told, are against the law to split. Only my ex continued to receive mailings from these companies about making payments—I received nothing, even though we were separate entities. I contacted AES (the company that was then servicing these loans) about deferments and forbearances, filled out the paperwork and, at first, they habitually “lost” or “never received” it via fax, mail, e-mail, etc., and then later, the excuse was that my ex and I had to defer for the exact same reason or it would be denied, despite the fact that we had no contact with one another and, furthermore, lived in different states.
This went on for years, with penalties, fees and interest compounding. After moving from Las Vegas to Irvine, California, in 2008, I visited our local credit union to transfer a personal and car loan from Las Vegas. When the teller returned, she informed me that they could not service these loans because I had more than $250,000 in unpaid student loans and my credit score was 590 (in Las Vegas, it had been 800 and I had been approved for a $400K home loan). I was mortified, shocked and frustrated. I immediately phoned AES and they refused to divulge any information to me because my ex was listed as the primary account holder. I was refused any information, but they reported the debt as solely mine to the credit bureaus. This continued for almost a year.
Then, one day, I was contacted by another company, ASA (American Student Assistance). They informed me the loans were now being handled by them and that if I paid $1,500 per month for 9 months, they’d fix my credit and I could enroll in Income Based Repayment (IBR). I explained that I’m a single mom raising two daughters, with limited support, and that, because of teacher furloughs, my salary was become smaller and smaller. I explained that the most I could possibly afford, after cutting some things from our budget, was $750 per month, and that would really be a stretch. They refused. As a result, the loans have now gone into default, and ASA has garnished my wages at $1000 per month since January, 2012—but only MY wages, not the ex’s, yet he also teaches and even receives a higher salary than I do.
I’ve been denied homes to rent for my daughters and me as this debt makes me a “high risk” (I have no other bad debt and have always paid my bills on time). In March, when I received notice that I would be out of a job for the following school year, I sent a letter to ASA, explaining my situation again, but never heard back from them. My last paycheck was on June 30, and I received no other paychecks until October 1st of this year.
After paying over $10,000 last year to ASA, they sent the 1098-E to my ex with his social security number to deduct interest paid from his taxes. I’m not trying to get out of paying what I owe—I’m just asking why I have to be burdened with another person’s debt in addition to my own. Why can’t the law allow these consolidation loans to be separated upon divorce? Why should someone to whom I am no longer married have the power to continue to ruin my credit? How can a company absolutely ruin my credit, yet refuse to provide me any information about the debt? How can I work in the public sector with underprivileged children and be refused deferments or forgiveness simply because I took out my first loan “too early” or because my ex-husband doesn’t qualify? How can these companies garnish my wages, yet not work with me on a fair repayment plan? I worked hard for my education, borrowing a minimal amount and paying for most of it myself, yet how am I rewarded? By picking up the tab for someone else’s debt. Is that a just and fair system?
Please join the over 46,000 supporters who have signed my petition on SignOn.org imploring the American Student Assistance company to remove my name from this consolidated student loan.