THE BLOG

Sallie Mae Won't Forgive My Teacher Loan

08/20/2014 01:22 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2014

Dear Steve,

I have been paying on my student loans with Sallie Mae for almost 15 years. I have a perfect payment history, no defaults, no late payments, PERFECT! I took the bare minimum of a loan which is down to $26,000. Before going to graduate school, Sallie Mae told me that I would get a loan forgiveness of $17,500 if I taught in a critical shortage area for 5 years with some of those years being in a low income area which I have been doing for 13 years and received $0.00.

I have been actively fighting for this benefit for the last five years. Each year Sallie Mae comes up with excuse after excuse for not giving me what I am legally entitled to and I keep fighting. They even claimed that I had accepted another forgiveness amount which if totally false and I had the records to prove it. Then they said I defaulted, which was false again and I had the records to prove that. I have records showing that I paid my interest in advance and they said we do not allow that, but they did 15 years ago. Even though I have the proof, they refused to accept it.

When I applied for the forgiveness last year, I was again refused. I asked for an audit since my records were destroyed in a flood and Sallie Mae's reply, "We don't do that." Every other loan agency provide audits if needed and I do not understand how Sallie Mae can keep getting away with refusing go provide an audit ad official documents that I lost in the flood. All they did was send be the five years of my payments which I already had records of. After asking for the audit and being vocal for so long Sallie Mae will not communicate with me anymore via telephone, email or postal letter.

I legally earned that forgiveness and desperately need it. I will be retiring a few years and I cannot have that debt hanging over my head. I am exhausted and do not know how to get what I am entitled to. I am a perfect consumer, have a credit rating is the 850s, I am an outstanding citizens. I have taught for 20+ years the children that no one else would teach and I dedicated my heart and soul to those children that made me a better person. I am the prototype that the teacher's loan forgiveness program is for. I am exhausted and the fight with Sallie Mae is draining me. How can they get away with it.

I NEED HELP TO FIGHT!I have done everything correctly and I am not seeking a way out of my debt or to have others pay for me. I legally earned that loan forgiveness. Do you know anyone willing to help someone like me who has done everything right, but still gets beat down. I am exhausted with this fight but if I give in Sallie Mae can do whatever they want regardless of the law. I have an obligation to be sure the next generation of teacher's do not have this happen to them. PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME before I burn out. I have a lot of records but do not know what to send.

Thanks.

Mona

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Dear Mona,

If this was a Sallie Mae private student loan then I don't have a clue what you are describing. However, if these are federal student loans that Sallie Mae was servicing then I believe you are describing the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.

To qualify under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and be eligible for the $17,500 in loan forgiveness you would have to have served low-income families and had your request certified by the chief administrative officer at the school you were employed. They would need to state you were:

  • a highly qualified full-time mathematics or science teacher in an eligible secondary school; or
  • a highly qualified special education teacher whose primary responsibility was to provide special education to children with disabilities, and you taught children with disabilities that corresponded to your area of special education training and have demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in the content areas of the curriculum that you taught.

To make sure if the school you taught at qualified you can check the online database, here.

More information about this program can be found here.

All that being said, I'm not convinced that's the right forgiveness program for you. It seems you should take a look at the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

While that program requires 120 consecutive on-time payments and only payments made after October 1, 2077, count. But the advantage of this program is all your federal student loans would be forgiven, in full.

The U.S. Department of Education describes the type of work that qualifies for this forgiveness and it is easier to qualify for and more extensive that just the teacher program.

"Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a not-for-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. Additionally, the type of services that these public service organizations provide does not matter for PSLF purposes.

A private not-for-profit employer that is not a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC may be a qualifying public service organization if it provides certain specified public services. These services include emergency management, military service, public safety, or law enforcement services; public health services; public education or public library services; school library and other school-based services; public interest law services; early childhood education; public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. The organization must not be a labor union or a partisan political organization."

For more information on this program, click here.

So it seems you can fight for the past or if you are still planning to work in the teaching field for the next three years it might be worth considering this program for a full forgiveness.

If you still want to fight for the original program you mentioned you can ask for help and intervention from the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman and file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, here.

Steve
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