This is a warning to young teachers from some of us in education who got burned by Sallie Mae. In 2006 we were recruited by a midwestern college that told us our Sallie Mae FFELP loans (for tuition to become special education teachers) would be repayed by the lender. We were provided with lots of pamphlets and Powerpoints about how the repayment would happen, what the conditions would be to have the loan repayed and how much money would be involved. The conditions were:
1.) Work 5 years in a Title 1 public or private non-profit school in Special Education.
2.) Repay your loans on time and don't go into default.
3.) Expect to be repaid a certain percentage of the loan for each year we worked. If we worked 2 years, 3 years, 4 years or 5 years, different amounts would be repayed. I stress the word REPAYED. Repayed as in reimbursed, money returned, give-you-your-money-back. BUT, it was called loan forgiveness.
So, we enrolled in the program and graduated in 2008. I owed $28,000 and I began teaching immediately in a Title 1 school. It was horrible but I lasted two and a half years. During that time, Sallie Mae made some changes in their loan program and I called a few times because I read disturbing blogs about fellow students ripped off by the loan forgiveness program. In particular I was concerned because some students reported that Sallie Mae would only pay back UNPAID money on OUTSTANDING loans. I was trying to repay fast, since the interest rates were really high. I called Sallie Mae and spoke to numerous representatives (and their supervisors in some cases), who assured me repayment of the loans was different for our group of borrowers. For two and a half years I lived hand-to-mouth while I paid off my loans, assured by Sallie Mae phone staff that the loans would be repayed at the end of 5 years, if I continued to meet my side of the bargain.
Now, its 2011 and I noticed the website no longer has the same information about the loans made to special educators. Instead there is a new program of loan forgiveness only on OUTSTANDING loans made to ANY teacher who works in a low income school. I called them again just to find out what happened to the info online about our group of borrowers. The woman on the phone said:
1.) There was no history of my having any loans with Sallie Mae other than the amount currently due (In other words $20,000.00 I had repaid was not recorded anywhere in their records).
2.) They did not ever REPAY loans, they only FORGAVE loans still unpaid. This is contrary to every other conversation I have had with Sallie Mae staff concerning our loans.
In the meantime, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of teachers out there patiently repaying loans at ridiculously high interest, when they have NO CHANCE OF EVER BEING REPAID FOR THEIR LOANS. I call that fraud. Don't use Sallie Mae. They are using the forgiveness option as a scam.