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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We're In A Recession of Corporate Brainpower

After getting several harassing calls about money I've already paid, I have truly fallen out of love with my student loan lender, Graduate Leverage.

In 2004 I was swamped with a horrible student debt burden. My interest rates had soared to 14% under Sallie Mae, which at one time was touted as the people's champion for private student loans. My private loan payments alone were over $1000 a month. I literally didn't know what to do or where to turn. I confided in a co-worker while at my state job who was finishing Law School and asked her how she dealt with her student loans. She raved about Graduate Leverage and how they were owned by local Harvard MBA grads. I thought, cool, I'll give them a shot. So I called them up and they were able to offer me a variable interest rate loan that would never go above 7.9% interest. Granted, that's still not an awesome rate by most standards, especially when you owe over 100k, but it was far less than the 14% I was paying with Sallie Mae, so I went for it. The process was complicated but I felt the associates at Graduate Leverage were helpful.

Fast forward about 5 years later and I'm still with Graduate Leverage. I have the same amount taken out of my bank account every month. It's not affordable, but I don't have a choice in paying and it seems no matter where I look nobody else knows where I can get a better rate. So goes the doling out of my hard earned money until one day someone stole my identity and in getting my checking account funds back from the people who took them, I closed my checking account. I had to re-open a new account and re-establish all of my direct withdrawals, including my student loan payments. No problem, right? There should be a protocol involved, right?

Wrong.

Upon telling them that my checking account was hacked into and hundred of dollars were stolen the first thing the confused representative advised me of was that if I didn't have funds in my account that I was going to be charged fees for being late. She really didn't care to work with me to make sure my payments were made on time and I decided at the end of the phone call to just cancel my direct withdrawal and send in my payment checks directly. That's reasonable right? Well, according to Graduate Leverage's "computer records" I was 30 days delinquent with my payment and action was going to be taken. I was furious and confused after my identity ordeal that these people couldn't get it right even when I was trying my hardest to work with them. So, while I had the representative on the phone I logged onto my online checking and told her the exact check numbers and dates when they cleared (which were 5 days before they were due). I got the repealing "ohhhhh" on the other line and she reassured me that my account would be updated but she couldn't do it and would need someone from operations to do it manually. Seeing as I work in an operations/support department, that sounded strange to me but I agreed because I was ready to start yelling.

Since that phone call I've received 3 calls saying they never received my funds and I've had to explain to each rep again and again that the checks cleared and I owe them nothing until next month. They apologize and say they understand my frustration upon which they assure me will not happen again.

Me being frustrated with a less-than-stellar loan rate is one thing, but dealing with awful customer service again and again like this, especially from someone whom I'm sending thousands of dollars to a year, is beyond my realm of acceptance. As of right now, I am vowing to find another student loan company with better customer service and a lower interest rate. I will not settle for this shit any longer, especially when I will be paying them over 100k in interest over the term of my loan. Screw them.

2 comments:

Betsy Allgood said...

I feel like a lot of time companies "follow the book" to closely and don't look into the real situation. It bugs me. At least you got to talk to a real person... I guess that is the upside.

This could make a pretty good training model for P.O.S. you should think about developing it. If nothing else it will make the company that is wronging you look bad.

Now I'm wondering more of where did you go to college to owe that much... I guess I got my degree on clearance or something...

JR Moreau said...

Welp, my student borrowing story isn't so great. I went to UMass Dartmouth my first two years of college, did extremely poorly grade wise, developed lots of horrible habits (drinking, partying, fighting, etc) and by the grace of god, got accepted on a show and dance routine I put on for Suffolk University. Because I did so poorly at UMass, many of my credits were no good (below a B, but not failing, or withdrawn). So, I would up taking an extra semester and two summer sessions at Suffolk University. Added onto that situation, I also borrowed money for living expenses like rent and groceries.

Essentially, there was a bit of wasted time in there, too much borrowing, not enough frugal planning and a general lack of family knowledge about the college financing process (first generation to go to college).

At the end of this particular story, I did wind up in the top 5% of my class at Suffolk and I was able to secure a relatively fair interest rate as far as private student loans go. So, my main concern is learning to live with the debt and bringing it down as fast as possible.