Saturday, July 28, 2007

YOUR Oregon Rep!

I have volunteered and been accepted for the position of's Oregon State representative.

The biggest thing about this is that now there IS someone to talk to, here in Oregon, about student loan issues. I know from personal experience that it can feel very lonely (loanly?) out there, feeling like you're the only one with a financial hardship due to high student loans.

You aren't alone, though. One of the biggest things that is happening is a slow awakening throughout the country. More and more of us who are in the same boat are reaching out to one another and forming bonds and strength. It is that strength that can slowly topple corporate mountains like Sallie Mae.

I need your help, though, to get the word out that we are here, that we need more support, and that we can work together to change things.

We need people who are willing to copy and pass out flyers, post information, get meeting places set up, and be willing to work with me on getting the word out about this organization. We are grass-roots, so there's no funds - it's just us... If you have the ability to get interviews with local campus papers, free local papers like Willamette Weekly or The Mercury, or even The Portland Tribune, please do so - and let me know as well.

This can be something really big, and you can be a part of it, from the ground up.

I will continue to post my own journey regarding Sallie Mae here, and I will also be posting what I'm doing locally within the Portland area.


Suggestions for those with issues...

I've been getting comments requesting options that they might have regarding the horrible collection practices that Sallie Mae has instituded against them. I know, they're awful, and SM doesn't honestly have a leg to stand on. Regardless of prior comments that I've read about "due diligence", I've also consulted with the William D Ford institution (the Federal Government's answer to Sallie Mae), and have been advised that "due diligence" is superceded by the FDCPA.

Those representatives you speak with are front-liners. They get paid bonuses for each buck they make us cough up, and are trained to ignore the more polite virtues of discussion (as, I'm certain, you've found). They don't want to work with you, because that would mean they'd have to acknowledge their own humanity while working for a company that has none.

The following email is for a woman in the PR department at Sallie Mae. She is a very *nice* woman... I've spoken with her on the phone several times, and we've exchanged emails. She is prompt, polite, and is willing to both listen and get the issues heard at the appropriate level. What I do ask is that you PLEASE give her a chance. The front-liners are one thing, the higher-ups and those outside of the collection loop are another. That's not to say they aren't all part of the same company, only that their tactics are better.

With that said, prior to contacting her, you should do the following:

1. Utilize your fax machine and fax a copy of a "cease and desist" letter over to both customer service and the legal department (at SM, they're the same fax #, just fax it twice with two separate cover letters on it). If you want, go ahead and use mine as an outline, re-writing it to fit your specific information and issues. Make sure you bold those items that were violated, to clearly indicate to them what they have done wrong. Also, make sure that you clearly state that a transmission indicating "OK" is the same as Sallie Mae agreeing to your cease and desist request.

2. Document each additional phone call after you fax that letter. Legally, after you receive that transmission report, they can no longer call you more than once every 24 hours. Period, end of story. That's from the Federal Government, folks, so if you still don't believe me, go ahead and call the William D Ford foundation. They'll be glad to clarify that with you, just like they did with me.

3. Email Mary Fetter. Again, she's a really nice woman, so when you email her, start from the beginning, and tell your story about what's been going on, from beginning to now. Let her know that you need to have resolution to this issue, because you are attempting to pay your loan, but you cannot succeed in doing so based on the demands that are currently being given by Sallie Mae. Request that someone contact you regarding working with you and your current income situation, so that you can avoid defaulting or charging off, and can also continue to live / eat / pay other bills.

Keep in mind: Even the higher-ups are mostly interested in getting your money. However, they have the ability to set up your loan so that you can actually afford to pay it off, rather than having a default / charge-off, and having you live out of a cardboard box.

Currently, there is nothing "technically" illegal that Sallie Mae is doing, other than the FDCPA violations. They can, as a private company, charge as much interest as they see fit, and re-configure loans around based on their own profit rather than your personal interest. Unless they have multiple FDCPA violations, or violations after the cease and desist letters, there is nothing LEGALLY you can do against them. There *is* a class-action lawsuit brewing out of FL, which I'm a part of, through James, Hoyer (see my linky goodness section). If you want to be a part of it, call or email them very soon - they want all the documentation they can get, so be prepared to either make copies and mail them, or fax them over - letters, emails, all the loan paperwork, disclosure statements, everything.

As far as bankruptsy is concerned, well... It's a major gray area. In order to file for bankruptsy and include your private loan with Sallie Mae, you must do so under proof of hardship. No lawyer that I know of is currently willing to pick up the case, so you'd have to do all the legwork, paperwork, filing, and court stuff on your own, at your own expense... Here's the (darkly) amusing part: If you can actually AFFORD to do all of this, you're not in hardship, and therefore won't be able to qualify for a bankruptsy judgement on your loan.

The courts look on private (or signature) Sallie Mae loans as a "school" loan. Period, end of story. The Federal Government look on these same loans and says "same as credit cards, we won't touch 'em". So, those of us who ended up with a signature loan, and didn't get (or weren't) educated on what it was prior to signing the paperwork, are stuck. The only way to get rid of it is to attempt to consolidate it with a home or car loan via a bank, and make sure they over-compensate you for the amount owed to Sallie Mae - since it takes 30 days for the loan payment to post, and meanwhile your interest is still accruing (something they WON'T tell you, either).

So, that's the current scoop. I ask that you please use Mary Fetter's email address wisely. Do not spam or threaten, but utilize it with a business-like approach. It is tempting to go off the deep end, however don't sink to their level. Keep your dignity, and keep working on getting a fair shake at paying your loan off.


Monday, July 2, 2007

That's it, eh? We'll see...

Got a call from the person who was processing my refinancing. They said they had "great news", and that it was refinanced at the lower rate, to make my payments $311/month. I seem to remember something about $250/month, so this is still high for me... I'm going to be calling Mr. Firestein and finding out what's going on. That and I still can't get an answer regarding the two final loan disbursement payments that were done 6 months AFTER I graduated and left school - one for almost $9,000, and the other for almost $4,000. No one at Sallie Mae seems to know what they are, only that it's "obviously" something that was owed and now must be paid for... Sorry folks, if you can't explain what it was to the person you supposedly loaned it to, then I can't be responsible for it.