Federal Loan Consolidation Progress

Our records show that due to your recent consolidation loan, the account listed above is paid in full…We appreciate having been able to serve you and hope that your educational experience has been a good one.

What an excellent way to start out my day! It appears that all my federal loans have been successfully consolidated. That means I’ll immediately see lower payments and I’ll have 7 fewer open accounts. I’ve got to admit, it feels good! Hopefully, the lower monthly payment (yes, just one payment!) combined with having so many fewer open accounts and marking the other loans as paid in full and in good standing will start to help my credit rating.

The situation with Wells Fargo is still basically at a standstill. My congressman’s staff keeps playing phone tag with Wells Fargo, and I actually received a phone call from the executive director of the Wells Fargo Education Financial Services division a few weeks ago, letting me know they had received my letter and are looking into my account. I addressed the letter to the Director herself this time, instead of sending it to the anonymous CSR named Cody. The last time I talked with him, he said they hadn’t received any of my letters, so I thought I’d try someone higher up. Nothing is resolved yet, but I’ve at least gotten some people’s attention. Hanging on to hope.

Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012

Earlier today, I signed a petition for the passage of the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. The bill, introduced by Michigan representative Hansen Clarke, is designed to help struggling student borrowers.

Here are some key provisions of H.B. 4170:

o The bill would create a new “10-10 standard” for student loan forgiveness. If you make payments equal to 10% of your discretionary income for 10 years, your remaining federal student loan debt would be forgiven. If you have already been making payments on your student loans, your repayment period would likely be shorter than 10 years. The amount you have already paid on
your student loans over the past decade would be credited toward meeting the
requirement for forgiveness.

o The bill would ensure low interest rates on federal student loans by capping them at 3.4%.

o The bill would reward graduates for entering public service professions like teaching and firefighting. It would also provide incentives for medical professionals to work in under-served communities. It would reduce the Public Service Loan Forgiveness requirement to 5 years from its current 10 years.

Most importantly to me,

o The bill would allow existing borrowers whose educational loan debt exceeds their income to break free from the crushing interest rates of private loans by converting their private loan debt into federal Direct Loans, then enrolling their new federal loans into the 10/10 program.

I can’t begin to tell you how much that would help me (and thousands of others like me). I hope you’ll take a minute and add your name to the signon.org petition urging the passage of this bill.

Upward Momentum

This week has been one of surprising, upward momentum that I hope is an indication that I’m turning a new page in my life. First, I have to thank all of my amazing friends and family members that responded to my last post about my student loan situation. With everyone’s help in spreading the word, there have been some promising developments. That’s not to say the entire situation is resolved, but it’s getting better.

A very good friend’s mom let me know about a new federal student loan consolidation program that’s only available from January to June of this year. I doubted my eligibility since I had (unsuccessfully) tried to consolidate my federal loans before, but filled out the application anyway. It’s a lengthy application, but it turns out I’m actually eligible for it! I’ve sent in my paperwork and now I’m just waiting to hear whether it’s approved. If approved, I’ll be able to consolidate six of my loans from three different lenders into one, lower, monthly payment. It’s estimated to save me about $100 a month. It can’t help with my private student loans, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. If you think you might not be eligible for this program, think again. Apply and see what happens; you might just be as surprised as I was!

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, through another friend, I was able to connect with an executive at RCB Bank, a locally-owned bank with branches in the Tulsa area. I told him my story, and as a result, he wants to meet with me. I’m hoping something very positive will come of that meeting; it seems like this guy is a kind of miracle worker.

Speaking of miracle workers, I’ve also contact a few personal heroes of mine in hopes they can help: Elizabeth Warren, a consumer financial protection guru and candidate for Senate in Massachusetts who hails from Oklahoma; and Tess Vigeland, host of Marketplace Money on American Public Media. I encourage everyone to watch this video of a lecture Elizabeth Warren gave at UC Berkley a few years ago. She’s incredibly insightful and has been fighting for consumer financial protections for years. She successfully fought for the creation of a new government office to oversee such matters, and has played an important role in many other matters of consumer protection. I hope she and Tess will both know exactly what to do.

In addition, I received my federal tax return and was able to pay off my two store cards to Banana Republic and Gap. Collectively, those debts were only slightly more than $400, but it would’ve taken over three years to pay them off making the minimum payment. I always made more than the minimum payment, but that doesn’t stop interest from accruing. Now, I have two fewer bills to worry about each month and can use that money for food or put it toward my student loans.

Finally, and most exciting of all, I accepted a new position at a recycling company in Tulsa! I’ll be moving back to Tulsa in a few weeks’ time. It’ll be great to be back in the city I love, though I have to admit, I’ll miss a lot of people in Stillwater.

So there you have it. Hopefully, this upward trajectory will not only continue but accelerate. I’m ready for it.