Get Out of Debt Guy - Steve Rhode

Navient Strung Me Along and My Student Loan Debt Keeps Growing

Businessman trying to solve a maze questions

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Question:

Dear Steve,

I am a 48 year old IT professional. I make roughly about 58k a year. I am divorced and my ex-wife is working on buying me out of the house which I will receive my half of the equity after all is said and done to the tune of about $16,000 sometime in June / July of 2017. I have one more alimony payment in the amount of $750 then I will be paying only child support in the amount of $1020 per month on top of splitting any other extracurricular expenses that the children may incur.

So, regarding my student debt… I applied for a student loan back around 2000 through Sallie Mae and was approved. I believe that was around 16k. I made some payments but was then having a hard time with a mortgage, house bills, kids etc. I was offered the options of deferments and forbearances. At that point I used both options when and where applicable.

Around 2013 – 2014 I received a letter stating that my loan had been sent to collections… I do NOT remember the collection agency name. I then paid them for about a year or so… or whatever the agreement timeline was between us. After that it was then transferred back to Sallie Mae / Navient… Not sure if “transferred” is the correct term to use in this situation.

So since around 2014 or so, I have been making payments of about $150 a month. I’m also noticing that my balance hasn’t been going down at all or if it is… not by much. Which brings me to April 17, 2017 when I called Navient.

I spoke with one of the representatives asking about assistance in lowering my interest rate or balance for that matter. She stated that she sees my balance was at $13,000 in 2007. I asked why my balance went from 13k in 2007 to 25k in 2014 and they said it was due to the compounded interest. Keep in mind that they have no record of the years between 07′ and 14′. I asked “how is that possible”? She then again said that they are unable to see any activity between 2007 through 2014. Is this possible that they are unable to retrieve any information / activity for that time period?

I asked if they could waive that compounded interest and allow me to continue to pay just on the balance. They said no. Which I assumed they would but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

The payment plan I am on now is broken into 3 different increments for 3 different lengths of time. It looks like this –

For 30 months I pay $151.69 which comes out to $4,550.70
That brings me to 2019. From there it goes like this…

For 171 months I pay $230.59 which comes out to $39,430.89
That brings me to year 2033.

For 1 month I pay the last payment of $238.04.

This comes out to a total of $44,219.63.

That is a total of 16 years.

At this point I then spoke with a supervisor and asked again for the compounded interest to be waived seeing how I’ve been making payments all along without any issue. She also said no and suggested other payment options… some last between 20 to 25 years.

I then said that it would make so much more sense for me to file bankruptcy to wipe out this debt and have bad credit for 7 to 10 years or whatever the timeline is nowadays. She comes back saying that if that I was to file bankruptcy, this loan would not be waived and in fact the balance would increase due to accruing interest.

So I did a little bit of research online and saw that Navient has been sued here and there and how they are cheating their customers. I also found some of your articles on huffingtonpost.com

At this point I don’t know what to do. I assume I could see an attorney and take it from there.

Steve, from what you’ve just read, what are my realistic options? Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance,

Steve

Answer:

Dear Steve,

I’m making an educated guess here that these are federal student loans since they offered you 20-25 year payment plans. If these are not federal student loans let me know in the comments here.

The lives that have been ruined over this student loan tragedy are a crime. People were attracted to higher education fueled by uncompromising loans and left to drift in debt for the rest of their lives in some cases.

Two recent articles will churn your stomach. Read “Navient Knew Loans Were Garbage When They Saddled Students With Them” and “Navient Says They Are Not Required to Provide Good Advice to Debtors.”

Navient is accused of stringing debtors along by offering deferment or interest only plans that only kept the balance the same or grew the balance with compound interest. Collection fees that are tacked on explode the balance as well.

So once you were in the student loan debt your biggest mistake was listening to what the Navient representatives offered you. But who would assume that?

Sallie Mae and Navient are debt collectors. Their motivation, as they have stated, is to collect on the debt and not provide you with best advice. I applaud you for hunting down reality and reaching out to me and hopefully others.

So let’s tackle this bit-by-bit.

The missing payment history is odd but in just trying to validate the federal student loan debt it is assumed the history available through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is a valid balance. You should login here and check your loan history.

Now I’ve made the argument in the past that these federal student loans should be validated but every attorney I’ve discussed it with has said when they’ve tried the NSLDS was held up as the validation.

The Department of Education has an online payment estimator you can use here.

You didn’t mention what your current loan balance is and I don’t know what your Adjusted Gross Income is so I’m unable to run the specific calculation for you. But it sounds like Navient offered you a graduated repayment plan and then mentioned the possibility of an income driven repayment plan (IDR).

The IDR plan will give you the lowest monthly payment but watch out. Read Why Income Based Student Loan Payments Can Be a Terrible Trap.

If you can afford the payment, the least expensive overall way to get rid of these loans is on the ten-year repayment plan.

So I would suggest you logon to NSLDS and get the scoop on your current loan balances. Then if you can limp along on a minimum payment will you get your settlement on the house, you could use that settlement to reduce your student loan balance and then enter into a repayment program. Use the online calculator I mentioned to see what your payments would be.

If you don’t have any savings, I would not suggest using the entire settlement towards your student loans. Make absolutely sure you have an emergency savings account with at least several thousand dollars at a minimum, first.

The statement the supervisor offered you about bankruptcy was not accurate. Federal student loans may be eliminated or reduced in bankruptcy but it is a more complicated process. See this.

So let’s do this, go get the NSLDS loan balance and loan type, post that in the comments here with your AGI from your last tax return and let’s see what payment options are really available.


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