Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speeding away from it all...


When I was in Naples over the summer, it struck me how the Neapolitanos live under the heat of the Mafia without so much as a blink of the eye.  They live amongst garbage in the streets, prostitutes, government corruption, etc.  It's accepted as a way of life there.  But how could that be??

I'm always embarrassed to tell European friends that I have student loan debt, as the conversation inevitably turns into them lecturing me about how messed up American government is, and how our leaders do not protect the most vulnerable members of society, between our lack of universal health care, lack of affordable education, etc. etc.

Although it's an annoying lecture to listen to, I can't say I don't marvel at the irony of it all.  In fact, I shouldn't have been so surprised to see so many people living under corruption in Naples, since I am part of the demographic currently BURIED under student loan debt in the US, controlled by the for-profit Mafia, better known as Sallie Mae.

Mafia tactics/exploitation/manipulation used by Sallie Mae:

*Retracting on previous agreements, and reporting accounts incorrectly on credit bureaus, and refusing to fix them, even though loans are now paid in full!
*Acknowledging that incorrect information will hinder my ability to obtain credit in the future.
*They are anti-American!  SLM has taken jobs away from Americans, and pays cheap labor in the Philippines to insult/threaten/demean their college-educated clients.
*You can never truly make a principal-only payment because they take their sweet time (5-6 days), and allow the daily interest to accrue on the account before posting the payment. My per diem rate is approximately $4.93! So no matter what, $30 goes into their pockets every time I try to make a principal-only payment.
*They will not re-negotiate or offer a new program to me with a locked-in, lower interest rate if I pay off my loans in 18 months versus their crazy terms of 10-15 years!  This really irks me, because they love to offer me deferment, forbearance, hardship terms, etc. because the interest just keeps pilling up, but for those of us who can pay faster, and want to get on with life as quickly as possible, CAN'T!

What is wrong with our country and our values??? How is it that I can buy a brand new BMW for 0.9% interest for 36 months, 1.9% for 48 months, or 2.9% for 60 months, but I can't finance my education for less than 4% (which is what I'm paying on the federal loans. Private loan rates are variable, and have been as high as 14%!!!!! That hurts my heart just to write the number!)?  No, it's not just because the manufacturer has subsidized the buy rate for the loan on the BMW.  Sallie Mae is also borrowing the money for pennies on the dollar, but charging astronomical rates because they could and they still can.  There are very few options when choosing private student loan providers, and the universities have their hands in the pot as well, benefiting from the number of students they enroll in certain loans and programs.

Why do we do business with banks who are not operating in students' interests, and settle for terms that are terrible?!?!?!  Lastly, if we normally don't settle for schools that are for-profit, for the conflict of interest,  why are we financing our education with companies who are FOR-PROFIT????  

I know I need to take their antics in stride, and pay off my student loans as fast as I can, and live la dolce vita in spite of the Mafia, just like the Italians.  Yet once a month I worry myself and stress out over the terms I signed up for when I was 18/19 years old; when I didn't really understand the ramifications of what I was getting myself into.  Once a month I go on an internet binge, looking up advice, articles and a way to feel better about the blatant robbery that is taking place over at Sallie Mae, but I end up feeling worse.  So I'm going to let the facts speak for themselves, and not let the Mafia bother me... until next month's payment!  Now where's my Vespa so I can go for a ride?! ;)

FACT # 1: The "necessity" of a college degree has watered-down the market and made Bachelor's degrees essentially equivalent to a HS diploma; aka dime a dozen.

FACT #2: Banks and universities exploited students by adding origination fees, variable rates, quid-pro-quo favors, administrative fees, technology fees, SGA fees, unnecessary genEd courses, etc etc etc.  Banks and universities acted together against the best interests of the students.


FACT # 3: I borrowed during the most risky and irresponsible time in private student loan history! (2004-08); aka: I was duped and am still suffering the consequences!

FACT # 4: The Department of Education continued the foolishness!  They spent a billion dollars last year on collection agencies to collect from students who had defaulted on their loans.  A BILLION DOLLARS!! Here's an idea, reinvest the tax payer's money on the taxpayers who are going to school! Provide help and offer more repayment options to those struggling to pay private loans, equal to the help students receive on federal loans!  CROOKS!!




One day at a time, one dollar at a time, I am slightly closer to the light at the end of this very dark tunnel! I plan to have a BIG PARTY when I am finally done with my student loans!  With a piƱata in the shape of SLM!



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