So... let's talk about Sallie Mae.They're the nation's largest student lender -- and they aren't as sweet and innocent as their name suggests. In fact, they're downright exploitative.Case in point: when we asked the Rebuild the Dream community to share stories about their student loan debt, Barbara H. from Tennessee said this about her son:"He's not been able to find a decent job, is barely making ends meet, so has not been able to start paying his loans. He's talked to Sallie Mae regarding this, but they continue to call him daily, including Saturday and Sunday. Then they started calling me daily, since I was listed as a secondary contact. When I complained to their representative that this was harassment, I was informed that they can call each contact number up to eight times per day."And Rose (not her real name) shared this:"I encouraged my grandson to pursue a college degree, because I thought as a Black male, his chances of landing a decent paying job would be much improved. Because I co-signed, I now use a great portion of my Social Security check to pay the loans. When I called Sallie Mae to work out a payment plan, the representative told me to tell my grandson to sell his plasma to pay the loan."That's right -- Sallie Mae told Rose that her grandson should sell his blood to keep up with his loan payments. Sallie Mae doesn't offer alternative payment plans for students. As it turns out, this is just the way they do business. Click here to tell Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord: Shame on you! Stop exploiting student loan borrowers, and instead offer new repayment plans.Next week Sallie Mae is having their annual shareholder meeting in Delaware -- where we will personally deliver this petition to CEO Albert Lord.Right now, Sallie Mae gives students who are struggling with payments very few options, none of them good: defer their payments (and accrue interest), default on their loans (and wreck their credit), or put loans in forbearance (and pay huge fees and interest costs). College graduates are facing the worst job market in generations -- punishing them for a bad economy and soaring tuition isn't good business.What would good repayment options look like? Sallie Mae should modify loans to lower interest rates, provide income-based repayment plans, and stop charging forbearance fees and interest for those who need time to find jobs.Apparently, Sallie Mae doesn't understand good customer service.Let's gather thousands of signatures to tell Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord: We won't sell our blood to pay our loans. Work with student loan borrowers to come up with new repayment plans.Next week at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting, we're going to call out Sallie Mae's predatory practices and take a stand for student loan borrowers, with allies like the Student Labor Action Project.Many people think of Sallie Mae as the old, trustworthy, government-sponsored lender. But in fact, CEO Albert Lord led the charge in 1997 to privatize the company, which then purchased the name "Sallie Mae" for $5 million to give the impression that it was an agent of the government. Sallie Mae has spent millions every year lobbying against students, just so they can make fatter profits . It's time to put a stop to Sallie Mae's exploitative and abusive practices.Sources: Forbearance: How Sallie Mae Makes Money By Jacking Up Fees And Billing Taxpayers Center for Responsive Politics: Sallie Mae Annual Lobbying, 2011 NY Times: Lobbying Imperils Overhaul of Student Loans (Feb 2010)p.s. The New York Times is doing a big series on student debt called "Degrees of Debt," starting with this piece from Sunday's front page. It's a must read.
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