My name is Lynn. I am a 70 year old public school administrator in Colorado. I would like to retire. I can’t. I have given nearly 50 years of my life in public service and would like to retire. I can’t.
I can’t retire. Because I can’t afford to retire. My school loan payments are now over $600 per month. Which would be over one third of my retirement income.
I thought my loans would be paid off long before I would think of retiring. The compounding interest has made it so that I will be paying on these loans until I die.
My family and friends would like me to retire so I could enjoy more time with them. I can’t.
I am a recent breast cancer survivor and may have cancer again. My doctors want me to retire. I can’t.
I am an educator who took out school loans of $35,000 (for which I was grateful) who has paid over $61,000 in loan repayments and still has over $45,000 as a balance. I would like to retire. I can’t.
It would seem that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program would be a possible path for me. It isn’t.
It isn’t because I was encouraged by Nelnet to consolidate my loans with my then spouse. My now ex-spouse. My now nearly 17 years ago spouse.
Nelnet failed to explain that when we consolidated our loans they would no longer be Federal loans. Nelnet failed to tell us that our loans were now commercial loans. Yet Nelnet called them Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL).
Nelnet also encouraged me to take deferments and forbearances. Nelnet failed to explain the true cost of the interest that would continue to compound while the loans were on hold. If this were any other business, bank or lender, this would be considered predatory lending.
Nelnet failed to tell us what this loan consolidation might mean in the future. That no matter what happened in our lives we could never separate from our spousal consolidated loans.
It was these failures of Nelnet and the Joint Consolidated Loan Program that didn’t allow us to separate our loans when our marriage ended. And it was these failures that would mean I would be tethered to a violent and abusive man for the rest of my life. A man who stalked me, threatened me, mailed me trash, showed up at my work and who intimidated my friends. A man who possessed automatic weapons and was an excellent marksman. The man for whom I took out three different protection orders. And when I had to declare bankruptcy because of such an acrimonious and frightening divorce, the man who threatened to show up at bankruptcy court and told me to be watching my back. I had Federal Marshalls with me throughout the building, on watch the entire time and escorting me to my car.
Even after I pulled out all my retirement savings and moved to Colorado to start over, this man threatened me. He was very subtle at first and then it escalated. He intimated my elderly aunt and uncle to get information about me, and found my school email address to contact me. This is the barbed wire that connects me to this man.
The irony of all of this is that I was the Director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault program at the Women’s Center for Advancement in Omaha, NE (formerly the YWCA). I trained teachers, law enforcement, clergy and school counselors on working with victims of violence and their children. I also served on the City of Omaha’s Community Response Team (CRT) for violence. So, I know first-hand the impact that being in the reach of a violent partner can have. I know the feeling of shame when standing in front of judges, judges whom I had trained and worked with for years, requesting my protection orders. Shame that was not deserved. I know from years of teaching and safety planning with victims of domestic and sexual
violence the impact that being tethered to someone who is violent can have on a person, a family, pets, co-workers and the community.
Please allow me to untether my school loans, to separate them from this violent man.
Please support The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, HR2460, that will allow me and so many others to separate our spousal consolidated loans.
Please help me to no longer live in fear.