In 1999, my ex-husband and I graduated from college. We married the next year. As a first year teacher, I wasn’t making much money. Trying to create a living budget, we contacted Sallie Mae, which held both of our loans. We held FELPP loans. Sallie Mae told us that our best option was to enter into a Spousal Consolidation Loan.
Over the next two years, money was tight. I called Sallie Mae to try to reduce the monthly student loan bill. They requested paystubs and tax returns in order to assess a smaller monthly bill, and then took several weeks to “process” the information. I called weekly, and after five weeks, we were told that our paystubs were more than a month old and that I had to restart the whole process. This happened three times in a row, and then Sallie Mae suggested that we sign a forbearance. This happened in 2002 and in 2003. Then I went to graduate school. While in school, our student loans were placed in deferment until 2005. The loans started again, and the monthly was even larger due to compounded interest. We struggled and went through the same ordeal of requesting a smaller monthly amount only to be consistently put off until we agreed to a forbearance again until the IBR was implemented in 2007.
Since 2007, we found out that we could not re-consolidate our loans and that even though I have been teaching since 1999, I was not eligible for teacher forgiveness programs. Due to the years of forbearance and compounded interest, we went from $105,000 to $221,000 even after years of paying through the IBR. We went through a bankruptcy, but the student loans, crushing though they are, are not eligible to be bankrupted. Though divorced and living in different states, we are both required to share our tax returns with each other and both sign the IBR request annually in order to continue in the IBR program. If my ex-husband refuses to give his tax information, the entire payment falls to me, and I wouldn’t be able to continue in the IBR program. Every year, I have to hope he will cooperate.
Meanwhile, we have not been eligible for the pandemic pause or to consolidate our PELFF loans into Direct loans. We have not been eligible for any assistance. This has been a nightmare. I have taught for 23 years, but the student loan debt is crushing. I am back in graduate school adding to my loans right now because the pandemic has shown a desperate need for counselors for our teens. I am going back to school to be a counselor, but the student loans are impossible. I am willing to pay my student loans. But I shouldn’t have to pay my ex-husband’s loans. And I shouldn’t have to pay $100,000 in interest due to predatory lending practices. I should be eligible for teacher forgiveness programs.