My husband and I were married in 2000 while still attending a private college. We both had loans but the loans were in an in-school deferment status at the time. We had our first child in 2003. But by this point, we had both dropped out of school to seek full time employment and meet family demands. In 2004, while working full time as teaching house parents for a children’s group home making very little and still trying to manage multiple monthly student loan payments, Sallie Mae encouraged us to consolidate our loans together to make one manageable monthly payment. Ok. Sounds good-that makes sense, we thought. So on April 30th, 2004 we signed the spousal consolidation loan through Sallie Mae for 25 years. Our consolidated loan amount was for $60,105. **I have also included a complete rundown of every single payment we made to SallieMae (now Navient) since 2004.**
We made monthly payments on time, but during periods of severe financial difficulty, the loans were in forbearance. My husband began working for the federal government in September 2009. During a very emotionally & financially abusive marriage, we filed for bankruptcy in December 2011 at which time, we were told our student loans were not allowed to be included in the bankruptcy. The main source of our debt that we were seeking relief from. The main source of the financial abuse. When we originally heard about the PSLF program in 2013, we filed the paperwork to get at least my husband’s portion of the loan on the path to forgiveness. The application came back denied because they couldn't verify his loan amount under the program terms. Confused and defeated, I just let it go for the time being because it hadn’t been 10 years anyway since he started with the federal government and thought maybe that’s why we were denied.
In September 2015, my husband and I seperated. We were able to manage a financial agreement on all our joint bills except for the joint consolidation. Admittedly, I did have more student loans than him. At the start of this consolidation, his loans accounted for about $16,000. We were not able to separate our joint consolidation. After numerous phone calls to Navient, there was nothing we could do about separating our loans. My husband refused to pay stating that his portion “should certainly be paid off by now”, but I couldn't afford the payment on my own so into forbearance they went again for the next two years. However, during this time of our marital separation, the loans continued to be a source of abuse. My now estranged husband harassed me constantly about paying on the loans even though financially he knew I could not afford to, but it was still reflected on his credit report which, of course, was completely out of my control.
After reconciling in 2017, we made a new commitment to pay on these loans no matter what. Even during the pandemic, when all other loans were in a federal deferment, our loans did not qualify for the CARES Act. We continued to make larger monthly payments than the minimum. We have since learned that my husband would have never qualified for the PSLF under our current FFELP Spousal Consolidation.
Then earlier this year, the Navient Settlement was announced. Finally some relief from this horrendous predatory loan program we are stuck in! I read all the fine print, our loans should definitely qualify to be canceled. Except they are not. Because our FFELP Spousal Consolidation while being serviced by a commercial lender is still identified and treated as a federal loan program that happens to not qualify for any of the federal loan relief programs.
Something I do want to make clear - I am not trying to “get out” of paying a debt that I owe. Although I do believe this was and still remains a predatory loan program, my big ask is to, in fact, have these loans separated for the following reasons:
- In order for my husband and I to take financial responsibility independently of each other.
- Believe it or not, it was a major player in our decision to get back together. It actually felt easier to stay in a potentially abusive marriage than to divorce with this loan still keeping us tied together. He agreed to make the payments if we stayed together.
- To qualify for respective forgiveness/cancellation programs within the current parameters of the law.
- Acknowledgement of the fact that this was such an egregious loan program that it is now defunct and any outstanding balances related to this program should now be defunct.
- Just as borrowers who are no longer financially obligated for loans paid to specific for-profit schools alleging school misconduct, I should not be financially obligated to a loan program/servicer for similar misconduct.
- At the very least, I should be allowed to file a Borrower Defense to Loan Repayment Application citing the FFELP Spousal Consolidation specifically and any lender that participated in this type of loan program.