With Americans owing roughly 1.4 trillion in student loan debt, more people have come forward against the current lending system. Some have filed lawsuits and complaints against student loan servicers for steering them away from affordable repayment plans or failing to provide adequate information on their options. In a long-form investigative piece published by Reuters called “Student loan borrowers, herded into default, face a relentless collector: the U.S.,” Michelle Conlin tells readers about the unfortunate story of Lakisha Johnson who is struggling with her student loan debt and how her student loan servicer added fuel to the fire.
The story begins with Lakisha and her daughter, Aijiah, moving out of their apartment in West Philadelphia right before Thanksgiving last year due to the landlord raising their rent from $675 to $875 a month. Without any other options, they ended up at a homeless shelter and were planning to stay with anyone who would let them crash on their floor. In the meantime, Lakisha was waiting for her 2016 tax refund to arrive so that they could get back into a place of their own. Unfortunately, she never did receive that check.
After contacting the Internal Revenue Service, she was informed that the Department of Education was using her refund to pay for her outstanding student loan debt. The agent on the phone said the IRS would probably do the same thing the following year since she still owed around $17,000.
This bewildered Lakisha for she had only taken out two student loans that amounted to $6,625 to become a medical assistant. She quickly learned that although she had enrolled in one of the heavily promoted forbearance plans whenever she got behind in payments, this did not stop her loans from accumulating interest or getting dinged with fees. She now had joined the 11.2% of student loan borrowers who are currently in default.
It was not until Reuters contacted her that she learned that she could have avoided this situation if she had enrolled in one of the income-based repayment plans. This was an option that she said was never brought up by Navient. If there is anything that should be taken away from this story is that borrowers should be wary of trusting their student loan servicers. This is just one example that showcases why so many people have argued that student loan servicers are not doing their due diligence to help borrowers pay down their debt but rather are attempting to make as much money as possible.