23-Year-Old Grad Challenges Sallie Mae’s Defense of ‘Unemployment Penalty’ on Student Loans

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Creator of campaign on Change.org to stop loan forbearance fee issues public statement after Sallie Mae describes fee as a “good-faith deposit.”

Student loan giant Sallie Mae defended itself from a popular campaign on Change.org demanding the company stop charging jobless borrowers a $50 fee on their student loans, drawing a sharp response from the campaign’s creator Stef Gray. More than 60,000 people have joined the campaign since its launch.

Sallie Mae spokesperson Patricia Christel described the fee as “a good faith deposit that acknowledges the importance of and commitment to resuming payments in the future.”

“Sallie Mae’s characterization of this onerous fee as a ‘good-faith deposit’ is simply unbelievable,” said Gray, a recent graduate who took out private student loans through Sallie Mae. “When I pay a deposit on my apartment, I get my money back at the end of the lease. If this were a ‘deposit,’ borrowers would either get their fees back at the end of the forbearance or the money would be applied to the loan’s balance. Neither of these is true.”

“Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to add interest to the loans – in my case, more than $1,000
every three months I can’t find work,” she continued. “This fee is about one thing, padding Sallie Mae’s profits, and for them to pretend otherwise is galling.”

Members of the student debt movement quickly rallied around Gray’s response via social media, using Twitter and Facebook to call on Sallie Mae to end the $50 fee per loan for a 3-month forbearance period, a fee Gray calls an ‘unemployment penalty.’

“We can’t let Sallie Mae get away with this kind of corporate nothing-speak,” Gray said of the social media response. “The thousands of borrowers standing with me to fight for change want real answers and real change, and we want it now.”

Live signature totals from Stef Gray’s campaign on Change.org:


Sallie Mae’s response to Stef Gray’s petition:


For more information on Change.org, please visit:


Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by more than 500,000 new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.


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Charlotte Hill
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