Get Out of Debt Guy

Mystery Minister Mired in Massive Navient Student Loans

Posted February 9, 2015

Dear Steve,

I have both federal and private student loans that are jointly signed by my parents and I. My private loans are around 76K and the federal loans are around 22K. The private loans' interest rate is variable and can change: between 3.25 and 4.25 percent. My federal loans are 2.88 percent. The company I have borrowed from is Navient (Sallie Mae). 

I am getting ready to be 33 years old and got my first loan at the age of 18. One undergraduate degree in philosophy and a nearly complete masters in divinity (a church ministry degree) later and I have yet to make a dent in the loan's principle. 

At one point when I was between jobs and taking time off from school I had a two year stretch where I paid minimum payments. For the past 3 years the loans have been in deferment as I finish my masters degree online while working. My wife and I earn a little under 60K a year together.

I read your article Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan and wondered: am I someone who should strongly consider your advice? If so, how do I begin to assess my situation and develop a plan to "negotiate" my private student loans?

Thanks for your time!

Mystery Man

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Dear Mystery Man,

Well the absolute primary goal should be to finish the Masters. No need to have all of this debt and not get the degree.

The problematic news on the private student loans is your parents cosigned or endorsed the loans, making them 100 percent responsible for the debt if you defaulted. And to get to the stage where lenders are willing to discuss settling the loans for less, you have to be delinquent. I'm not suggesting that is logical, it's just the way their process works.

Rather than suck your parents into the problems associated with defaulting, like the negative entry on their credit report, it might make sense to first talk to Navient about getting them removed as cosigners. 

One strategy is to read my post Letters to Release Co-Signer From Private Student Loan. It won't cost you anything to try.

The issue here isn't if Navient will talk about settling the loans when you get about 120 days or so past due, they do. For me the issue is to not drag your parents down in the process.

Keep in mind defaulting is not without consequences. Navient will reports the loans past due on your credit report and in collections. That will leave a seven year notation on your credit report. Navient could always sue you in an attempt to collect and then try to garnish your wages if they won.

The best case scenario here might be to get the cosigner release and then if you want to try the Navient settlement route, see if your parents might be willing to lend you $38,000 towards a 50% settlement if Navient agrees. Navient likes to get lump-sum settlements but I have seen them offer payments over a short period of time as well.

Before I go, here are three things you can do right now to tackle your issue. Click here.

Steve Rhode
WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

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About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.