Weekly Student Loan Recap

Just a quick update about what’s happened in the past week… I met with the banker last Thursday, and though we spent nearly two hours discussing what limited options I have and pouring over numbers, it appeared to him that there’s little I can do. I did learn a few helpful strategies for paying off my loans more quickly. I’ll post those here soon. Not the outcome I was hoping for, but it was positive nonetheless.

The next day, I did an interview with Tess Vigeland and Liz Watson on MarketPlace Money. It began quite awkwardly, since I ended up having to do the interview in front of all my coworkers, so I stumbled through the first part. Their confidence that they could help was high in the beginning and very low by the end of our 10+ minute conversation. With each detail they learned about the situation, the more grim the outlook became. I really hope parents of college-bound students listen to the show, so they can hear what not to do. I knew the interview was going downhill after the third time Tess said, “Oh brother” or “Oh boy”. But I’m glad to get the message out about student loans.

Since then, I’ve also written letters to Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, Representative John Sullivan, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau asking for their assistance, and a very wise colleague suggested I write to the Oklahoma Attorney General and Oklahoma State Banking Department. I’ll be doing that this weekend.

Tonight, I learned some very good news about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal department created by Elizabeth Warren and President Obama. The CFPB is currently in the process of creating its own Ombudsman program for private student loans, which will act as a counterpart to the Department of Education’s Ombudsman program for federal loans. Both will essentially look at your particular case and negotiate a deal with lenders on your behalf, possibly avoiding situations like the one I’m in now. While that won’t help me now, it will definitely help in the future, and I’m sure it will help thousands upon thousands of student borrowers across the country.

Positive Snowball Effect

To add on the good news from the past week and a half, I received a letter yesterday from one of my lenders, Discover Student Loans, congratulating me on my graduation. That’s nice, if late, but the really nice gesture is that they offer a graduation reward in the form of a 2% reduction in my principal balance.

They even gave me the option of depositing it into my checking account or applying it directly to the loan balance. I applied it to the balance. The loan is pretty substantial, too, which means the benefit to me is pretty big: $440! Excellent news, indeed. So, thanks to Discover! (I guess it really does pay to Discover.) Wells Fargo should take a page from Discover’s playbook.

Today, I spoke with a producer from Marketplace Money and told her my student loan story. She wasn’t sure if they could help, especially since I’d already spoken to an attorney who couldn’t offer any advice, but checked with a resident expert, and it turns out they might be able to help. We set up an interview for this Friday and hopefully, they’ll be able to shed some light on what my options are. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

I’m really liking this positive momentum, and I hope it continues! It’s a welcome change.

Radio Help

I got a response from the folks at Marketplace Money about my student loan story. They’ve invited me to chat on the phone with them this afternoon, so hopefully I get some good answers to my student loan situation. I’ll be sure to post the results of that conversation. Let’s get this thing resolved.