I have a lot of student loans. This, according the generations above me, makes me irresponsible. I'm not. I pay all of my student loans, and all of my other bills. I don't like it, but I do it. I took them out because too many people told me that if I worked hard and went to a great school, I could be whatever I wanted to be. I was young, with an not-yet-fully-developed prefrontal cortex that prevented me from fully recognizing how all these papers I was e-signing would affect me in the years ahead. I knew there was consolidation. I knew there was income based repayment. I thought I could make it work.
When I graduated and all the bills came in, I learned there was only income based repayment for my federal loans. I signed up. I learned that only one of my private loans had a 25 year repayment option. I signed up, and I swallowed the larger fee from the other loan company. I paid my bills. I budgeted my life. I didn't have much discretionary income, but that was okay. I get free food at work and I like my life. I was managing.
There was one loan that went missing after I graduated. It was the first one I took out, from a shady company called Campus Door. I took it out because it was August and I didn't have a cosigner and it was my freshman year and I didn't realize I owed money but I did and I needed it right away or I wouldn't be able to start classes. No one in my family had been to college and we didn't know what to do. So I took out this loan. When I graduated, I went to the website and it said my loan was now being serviced through American Education Services. Cool. I already had another loan serviced there. Maybe I could consolidate. I called and asked about this loan, and they told me it didn't exist. I told them I was pretty sure it did, and they said I had one loan with them, and that was it. I was nervous, but also pretty damn excited. A large debt had disappeared. I called some friends and asked what to do, and some cited similar experiences. Ten thousand dollars they thought they owed just never appeared in bill form. Thanks, Obama. So I continued one with my life, always looking out for an email or a bill. None came. I got financially comfortable and got a nicer apartment and a job that paid a little less but that I liked more. I have a tight budget, but I can live within it, and I have savings in case of emergency. Now, thanks to Wells Fargo, this is no longer the case.
Yesterday I received an email from my credit monitoring app that I was delinquent on a loan and that my credit score had dropped significantly. I freaked out. I looked at all three of my servicers and couldn't find a loan for that amount anywhere. So I called Campus Door. They told me that I wasn't even in their system anymore, and that I should call AES. I call AES, and they suddenly have some information on this loan. It was serviced by them for a time, but Wells Fargo took over it while I was still in school. I had never received ANYTHING from Wells Fargo. I call them. The address they have on file for me is my parents' home, a house they moved into this year that I have never lived in. I don't even know the address. The phone number they have on file is my family's old home phone number, which no longer exists. They have no email address on file for me. I ask about this, and they tell me their "working on a technology upgrade." Wells Fargo, a corporation that is seeing major profits every quarter while everyone else is stagnant or falling, tells me their working on being able to do more via email. I'm 41 days delinquent. I owe a few hundred dollars. I pay my first month's bill and go into "financial hardship forbearance." I'm only having a financial hardships because they didn't tell me I owed them money. I explain this to the customer service representative, who I try not to yell at since I know big banks often give small kickbacks to their underpaid workers for screwing people over. She's going to be able to get shower curtains and cat food because I cried today. I called my mom and asked if they ever received a bill. They hadn't. The only piece of mail from Wells Fargo was from yesterday, asking me to please update my contact information. There was no bill, nor was there evidence of my delinquency.
I have no idea how they got that address. I don't know how they can get away with not sending bills and calling me delinquent. I don't know why my family's old phone number carried over when my loan changed hands but my email wasn't. I don't know why Campus Door has incorrect information about where their old loans are or why AES didn't notify me when the loan they were servicing went someplace else. I don't know why there was such a long grace period, or why I was automatically signed up for 25 year repayment. I don' know when I would have found out about this loan, if I hadn't cared enough about my credit score to be monitoring it. All I know is that I feel like three different financial institutions actively worked to screw me over, and they succeeded. They tanked my credit, put me in a desperate situation, and made me feel totally alone in a problem I know hundreds of thousands share with me. All because I believed them when they said I could be whatever I wanted to be.