This is a continuation of last week’s post. The scene takes place 2 months earlier:
Amy, on the phone with Sallie Mae rep.
Amy: I know I’m late on my payments, yes, three payments behind. But I just got out of the hospital and I left my appendix with the surgeon.
Rep: If we don’t receive a payment from you in the next two weeks, you’re going to default on your loans. According to your account, you’ve already consolidated them once before. If you default again you’re no longer eligible for rehabilitation.
Amy: So, I go into bankruptcy?
Rep: No, student loans cannot be discharged into bankruptcy, unless a court decides it will impose undue hardship on you and your dependents.
Amy: I don’t have any kids, if that’s what you mean by dependents. And I’m already homeless, nearly 200 grand in the hole and no job. Doesn’t that count as undue hardship?
Rep: You’ve backed yourself into a corner, I’m afraid and your options are limited. I’m afraid consolidating your loans works as a one time get out of jail free card. So you’re left with only a few options.
Amy: but I’ve paid you as often as I can! When I had a job I was on income based repayment. And then you garnished my wages! And look, I just got out of the hospital, can’t we put me back on deferment until I’m fully recovered?
Rep: Defaulting once bars you from forbearance. Since your credit is at the point where no one would hire you or allow you to sign a lease, I would recommend getting a case worker to work on a personal level with you to reestablish your finances. We have them available at Sallie Mae.
Amy: And how much do you charge for a case worker?
Rep: For those in your situation, the cost of their assistance is free. We want to help you get out of debt and give you back freedom in your life.
Amy: Sure. How do I get a case worker?
Rep: Let me put you on hold for one moment, and I’ll connect you to our next available case worker, Stella Gibran will be right with you.
Stella: Hello, this is Stella, how may I assist you today?
Amy: Did your parents like Tennessee Williams or something?
Stella: Actually Streetcar is their favorite play. And Mr. Williams was a family friend.
Amy: You’re joking.
Stella: Not at all, I had chills when Brando screamed my name on stage.
Amy: wow. I, um, I have a lot, I owe.. I wish I was you.
Stella: Okay Amelia, let’s get down to business. You owe exactly 147, 800. Let’s discuss your options of taking care of this.
Amy: Okay, are there other options than becoming a stripper? Or winning the lottery?
Stella: Of course, we would never want our clients to resort to measures of desperation. Bad things happen and debt is a huge responsibility that must be attended to regularly if you want it to eventually go away. Let’s talk finances for a moment. How much do you spend on coffee in one week?
Amy: (considering her starbucks in hand) Um maybe $40. It’s kind of my life blood.
Stella: How much do you spend on rent?
Amy: Well I’m staying on my sister’s couch. I’ve been there for the past 6 months.
Stella: Where was your last place of employment?
Amy: I was tutoring non-English speaking kids in a rough neighborhood and moonlighting as a waitress.
Stella: I see here that you have 2 credit cards overdue on payments and hospital bills amounting to another 4,000. Do you have health insurance?
Amy: No. I’m hearing that I’m generally fucked.
Stella: I wouldn’t say generally, I’d say definitely.
Amy: excuse me?
Stella: Fortunately, you qualify for a special repayment program we have at Sallie Mae. It’s an internship within the company. Similar to a work study program you might find in a university.
Amy: I am? What exactly does that entail?
Stella: You have a place of residency within our company and while you work off your student loan debt, you take financial help classes to help yourself and others get out of difficult situations like the one you’ve found yourself in.
Amy: Are you saying I have to pay room and board to work for Sallie Mae and take math classes?
Stella: No, No dear. Room and board is provided for you while you’re working for us. There are different categories of job placement ranging from office work to manual labor, we can find something perfect for you to make use of the skills you already have.
Amy: How long does this work study program last?
Stella: Until you pay off your debt. Which in your case, I would calculate to be around 3 years. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to live debt free. I offer this to you because otherwise you could be paying off loans into your retirement with a traditional repayment plan.
Amy: Did you say three years? How is that possible?
Stella: Sallie Mae will absorb the interest on your loans and you only have to pay the principle balance. Working inside Sallie Mae this way enables your time and money to go farther than it ever could. Would you like me to send you the paperwork to look over?
Amy: Um sure. How have I never heard of this kind of repayment plan before.
Stella: This is a very exclusive program Amelia. We only offer it to those borrowers who have found themselves in a desperate situation but have the credentials to work hard to turn their situation around. Please understand that your exceptional education qualifies you for this program.
Amy: That’s ironic in the worst way.
Stella: Look at it as an opportunity to start over. Your credit will be restored and you’ll walk away debt free, finally able to pursue your passions in life.
Amy: I need some time to think about this. It sounds like a great program and all, but I don’t know if I can pack up my life and join a company I have some strong ethical objects to.
Stella: Take all the time you need. At Sallie Mae, our goal is to help finance your education with the best possible options. I’ll call you back tomorrow to discuss any questions you have about the application. In the meantime, Amelia, please know that your next scheduled minimum payment of $325 is due four days from now. Thank you for calling Sallie Mae, have a good day. (she hangs up)
Amy: Stella? Stella?! Stella!! Oh for fuck’s sake.
What would you do?