Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear Sallie Mae

Dear Sallie Mae,

I would like to thank you for lending me a massive amount of money so that I could get a higher education. I wouldn't trade my time at New York University's Gallatin School for anything. It was an incomparable education where I learned a great deal about Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche. I'm aware that choosing philosophy as a major wasn't going to make me into a business tycoon, but nevertheless I chose to pursue what I had a passion for.

Four years passed and I was out of school and ready to find a job. My 20s were a time of exploration. I tried out different jobs including publishing, banking, and teaching just to name a few. It was not an easy time by any means. But, then again, there is a distinct lack of career guidance offered to American high school students and even less vocational advice provided to undergraduate college students.

Anyway, now I'm in my 30s and I finally figured out what I want to do with my life. I'm working as a professional writer and raising two children. Now, as you may be aware, writers don't make a lot of money. In fact, many of us are starving artists. I'm not saying that my career choice is your fault. I'm just telling you about my life so that we can get on the same page.

Writing doesn't pay the bills; this we know. So, in addition to my side gig of working as a substitute teacher, I am also sending out resumes to a variety of companies in the hopes of securing full-time employment. However, as you may be aware, the American economy is rough right now. There are no jobs. I am competing with people in their 20s for entry level positions that I am over-qualified for. It's disheartening to say the least.

At this point, I'm willing to take just about any job. I would totally work in a grocery store. However, Trader Joe's refuses to hire me because I can't work nights. I have to take care of my children too.

The point is I'm trying, I really am. But I'm having difficulty putting food on the table and paying my bills.

So when you refuse to accept the fact that I cannot pay you $220 per month, it's frustrating to me. When you offer no alternative options and simply demand that I pay you, I am at a loss for words. You see, I'm seriously considering applying for food stamps. With that in mind, do you think it's reasonable for you to ask me for $220 a month?

Listen, it was great when you offered me the interest only option. I could handle paying $123 a month. But then you abruptly took that payment plan away without notifying me. That's unprofessional and foolish.

So, I'm sorry I called one of your supervisors an asshole. But he kept demanding money that I clearly do not have. He wasn't hearing me and I was frustrated. I told him I was considering going down and applying for government assistance and he simply told me that this was a debt I had to pay. So I asked him if he had kids. He replied:
"Ma'am, I don't want to get into my personal life."

Well, he was certainly interested in my personal financial life. He kept asking if there was any way I could pay your company. He wanted to know all about my family and how much I paid for every single one of my expenses. I think that's pretty personal.

So thanks for nothing Sallie Mae.

I hope someone reports you to the Better Business Bureau.

Sarah Fader


  1. Seriously though, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  2. I had to file for bankruptcy and sue my private lender in order to get them to even negotiate with me. Even after that, I'll be paying them until I'm 60. They have no real accountability anymore since after 2005 they are about as exempt from bankruptcy discharge as the federal loans are. Though there are loopholes, in reality proving "undue hardship" is the only legal way to get out from under this debt if you can't pay them, and the definition of what that actually consists of is entirely subject to judicial whim.

    There have been some efforts in recent years to make progress on the student loan nightmare many of us find ourselves in, and giving the CFPB jurisdiction over the private lenders has so far been one of the only positive things to come of it. There's not much you can do, but they may be able to help you with what little you can.

    Some advocacy organizations: was launched recently and has already gotten a bit of attention.

    Also definitely check out

    As far as Politicians go, Steve Cohen, Dick Durbin, Al Franken, and Elizabeth Warren have been persistent in their attempts to get the offending laws and government agencies changed for the better, but they're up against the banks and a lot of ignorant people who think that it's a matter of personal responsibility as opposed to what it really is, the exploitation of a vulnerable population. As far as our NY state representatives go, Kirsten Gillibrand has been pushing to allow better refinancing terms of federal loans, so she seems somewhat interested in helping to get more than a generation of people out of this somehow legal indenture.

    The best you can do is to be vocal and get involved however you can. Talk to the CFPB, get in touch with the advocacy groups, and get in touch with whatever elected officials represent you.

  3. Yes file a complaint. They are supposed to work with you to pay off debts...that means taking whatever you could pay!


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