We’re raised to think that education is the key to social mobility. That, by going to school, we can escape the financial plight of our parents. So, we go to school. And we go to more school. And while we’re in school, we hear over and over—from the news, from mentors, from anyone who’s ever picked up Rich Dad, Poor Dad—that we must put money in savings. Then, when we graduate, we face plant into an economy with underpaid jobs and an adulthood with prohibitive student loan payments. Instead of saving, we scrimp together monthly loan payments.
I’m just one of many: I got my master’s, and graduated with upwards of $70,000 in debt. I got a job, which makes me a lucky one, but the income was well below what I was told to expect. Financially, I was hardly above water each month. Something had to change.
This past February, I applied for Pay As You Earn (PAYE), which adjusts my loan payments in line with my income. And, I’m working at a non-profit think tank, which makes me eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Might as well put in that application, too.
About 2 weeks ago, a letter arrived telling me that “Congratulations! Your PSLF application has been approved!” Awesome. In 120 eligible payments, the great genie will come out of the bottle and grant me 3 wishes. Translation: the federal government will forgive my remaining loan balance.
On March 16, I signed into www.myedaccount.com to pay my monthly PAYE-adjusted bill. Weird. $0.00 balance. No explanation, except that it’s been paid off. (Unknown benefactor? Secret wealthy uncle?) I figured I’d give it a few days. Maybe some more information would surface.
Two days later, I checked again. If this were a movie, you’d know that the plot had just thickened:
Alright. Fair enough. Sallie Mae serviced my loans pre-consolidation, so maybe they took them back again. I’ll just sign into www.salliemae.com and be done with this. Except I’m greeted with this message:
Woah! Maybe I do have a secret wealthy uncle!? No, probably not. More likely: this is a delayed congratulatory message from my consolidation last summer. Again, I let my patience guide me, and I give it another day or so. Then, I receive this email:
Oh thank goodness. My loans have been found! Because of PSLF, they were transferred to another servicer, www.myfedloan.org. And their email says it’ll take 10 days. Today is day nine, and still no sign of anything. When I called, their recorded message told me 10-15 days, which explains this current account status:
Please stop moving my student loans every time I sneeze. I want to make my March payment, and not a soul can tell me how to do that, or if my payment will be late because of the delays created by transferring them to a different servicer.
Doesn’t it seem a little backwards that we make the student loan repayment process this complicated? What’s the likelihood that students on financial aid receive adequate training on how to manage their finances? (I didn’t.) And, even if they did, this confusing transfer protocol is enough to drive a person crazy. Why, for instance, was I sent to Sallie Mae?
Come on, team. Get it together. I’ll be the first to tell you that the financial aid system needs big reforms, not just tinkering. But before we even get to the big ideas, how about a simple one: stop making it so hard for us to pay our monthly bills.