Tim Grant of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a recent piece entitled, "Student loans put college graduate into deep financial hole." It's about a young woman named Marjorie Dillon from Coraopolis, PA. While a few blogs have been somewhat sympathetic toward Ms. Dillon, the story has been recycled by others in hideous ways. I won't even bother providing links, because the recounting of this woman and her problems (whether or not she made "bad" decisions) is beyond vicious at certain sites and the posters are, in my mind, a bunch of brutish sewer dwellers.
Regardless of Ms. Dillon's decisions, I am sympathetic. I also don't think this story adds up, and it's my feeling that the borrower is trying to be blamed instead of other individuals. I wrote an email to Mr. Grant below raising my concerns and questions about the holes I found in this particular article.
My email to Mr. Grant, which was subsequently mailed to Congressman Mike Doyle and President Lauren Asher at the Institute for College Access & Success:
Dear Mr. Grant:
My name is Ms. C. Cryn Johannsen, and I am the promotional writer and marketer for Robert Applebaum's Forgive Student Loan Movement.
I read you article about Marjorie Dillon with great interest (http://www.post-gazette.com/
At one point you state that "Ms. Dillon's story also shows the consequences of a lack of financial planning, missing federal aid application deadlines and not meeting academic requirements for federal programs."
The article continues, "[i]n this case, the student frequently came into the financial aid office after school had begun and in some cases on the date bills were due and asked what her financing options were," said Mike Frantz, vice president at Robert Morris.
However, I'm suggesting that there might be a chance that the university may be responsible and not the student. The deadline for the FAFSA would not be at the beginning of the school year, but at the end of it. Plus, she may have been eligible for Stafford loans before she got into academic trouble. Did anyone tell her that she may have been eligible for Stafford loans?
It seems safe to assume that she she got herself out of academic trouble. She did, after all, graduate. Therefore lack of satisfactory academic progress may not be a sufficient reason to deny her Stafford loans.
Granted, perhaps she should take the measures the newspapers' expert provides, but the first questions ought to be related to whether she was incorrectly advised about her eligibility for Stafford loans or other forms of aid under the FAFSA.
Moreover, the Sallie Mae private loan is not limited to tuition and fees, but Cost of Attendance minus aid received. This allows for living expenses whether your a campus resident or not.
I have a hunch that someone is trying to paint the borrower as irresponsible for taking out loans beyond tuition and fees.
Also, do you know if Ms. Dillon has contacted Congressman Mike Doyle about her situation? It is my understanding that he has an office in Coraopolis, correct?. I've actually sent him this email at his website here - http://doyle.house.gov/email_
There are gaps in this story, so I'm just seeking clarification.
Thanks for your help and time.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Ms. C. Cryn Johannsen
Promotional Writer and Marketer, Robert Applebaum's Forgive Student Loan Debt Movement
Incidentally, I have already reached out to Ms. Dillon and hope to speak to her some time today or early next week.