- New Jersey
In short, my husband and I consolidated our loans somewhere around 2002/2003. Shortly thereafter, he began drinking and using drugs to self-medicate. Our son was born in 2004, and I quickly realized that I was not equipped to take care of both of them. We separated and then divorced. Our settlement stipulated that he would have to take out a loan to pay for his share of the student loans. We were so broke and his credit was so bad, that this was never possible, nor was it enforceable. I went back to school and got my Phd which put the loans into forbearance, so there was no real urgency to follow up on his payment. To be clear, I got a PhD in 5 years, took out very minimal loans, paid for my son's childcare and healthcare by myself, worked 20-40 hours a week, acted as the sole parent, and negotiated my ex-husband's spiraling mental health issues and substance abuse issues. This included emotional and verbal abuse, threats of physical abuse (more than once he threatened to kill us. On one drunken tirade, he told the police he was on his way to kill his wife and son and then himself - I had to flee my home with my 18 month old, but his uncle was a state trooper, so he was never charged with those threats), and of course the financial abuse.
However, in 2010, I finished my degree program and had to begin repaying the consolidated loans and my new loans. In 2011, my ex-husband was shot and killed by the police in his parents home during a drug fueled suicide by cop mission. For 7 years, I had been supporting our son by myself. I put myself through school, and had just achieved my dream job as an assistant professor at an MSI - definitely qualified for public loan forgiveness. After my ex-husband was killed, I sent a copy of the death certificate to the federal government as they requested when I called to notify them of the situation. When I sent it in, I waited for months to hear that his portion of the loan would be discharged. Instead, when I called, they told me that they were sorry for my loss but I was responsible for all of the debt. I just cried and cried some more. Please keep in mind that with the divorce - he was obligated to pay me $25,000 in debt that I incurred, all of his portion of the student loan debt, and by the time he was killed, he was nearly $30,000 in arrears in child support payments. He was literally dead and yet there was still no relief from the abuse.
Shortly thereafter, I enrolled part-time in a Masters degree program at a public institution because it cost me less money than making the student loan payment. And when they told me that I was eligible for loans - it felt like my ship had come in. I was so exhausted working full time, raising my son on my own, and negotiating my ex-husband's death that I was not keeping my head above water financially and this really helped. When I finished the part-time masters degree 5 years later, and the loans were no longer in forbearance, I had to declare bankruptcy because there was no way that I could pay the loans and my other expenses. So, while I could not discharge the student loans debts through the bankruptcy, it did put them on hold and give me a little breathing room.
I never remarried and never had more children as I intended, as a consequence of this debt and burden. Now, my son is about to go to college, and the crippling amount of student loan debt that I'll have to begin repayments on in the next year or two are not considered in his FAFSA. There is literally nowhere to record this on the application. So, I have to determine how to pay for his college (without trapping him in the cycle of student loan debt) while simultaneously trying to pay off my student loan debt which has accrued interest for 18 years AND his father's student loan debt (also accruing interest for 15+ years) without losing my mind.
I logged into the Debt Collective's webinar last night to see how this might be possible with the new waiver, only to learn that I didn't qualify. This just felt like insult after injury. I do not know what to do or where to turn, but I am very happy to share my story with reporters, and I'm more than happy to do what I can to campaign for student loan change. But I need an advocate. I don't know how to navigate all these complicating factors on my own and I am an educated and capable person. How is anyone supposed to figure all of this out without making a full time job of it? I appreciate any and all help that I can access and make use of.