Photo: Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Mondo
Chicago, Ill. native Elizabeth Mondo thought she hit a dead end when she struggled to find work as a nurse in early 2009. Mondo, 32, had just finished a nursing degree (her second in addition to a B.A. in criminal law studies), and her tenure at privately-run Mary Mount University hadn’t come cheap. In addition to maxing out her federal student loans, she was staring down $210,000 in private loans from Sallie Mae.
“I couldn’t find a nursing job to save my life, the economy was so bad,” she told Business Insider Monday. “But I had some girlfriends who were in the army for 10 years and they said I should join. I looked into it and I did.”
It was a smart move. After she enrolled, Mondo landed a job at Walter Reed Army Medical centre in Washington, D.C., where she’s contracted to work through 2016.
Like all military servicemen, Mondo’s federal loans were sent into deferment until the end of her service. Her private loans were a different story.
Although the U.S. Army agreed to cover $90,000 of Mondo’s Sallie Mae loans over three years, she’s asked Sallie Mae to put her remaining loan balance––about $120,000––into deferment until she leaves active duty. So far, they haven’t budged.
“I have called Sallie Mae almost weekly since I’ve been in the military and they refuse to properly put my loans in deferment,” Mondo says.
“A Sallie Mae customer advocate called me last week,” Mondo says. He told her she was eligible for a plan that would reduce her interest rate from 9.75 per cent to 6 per cent under the “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act”––an option Mondo says the multiple representatives she spoke with never mentioned.
“Nobody every told me (about this program), so now my interest rate for all my loans has been accruing at at a higher rate,” she says. And even though she’s on track to enroll, there’s still the principal loan to worry about.
We reached out to Sallie Mae, which offered this comment:
“Sallie Mae appreciates the sacrifices made by those who serve our country in the armed forces. This petition highlighted some confusion among some of our customers, and we’ve reached out to Ms. Mondo to help make her aware of all her options. Military servicemembers who are called to active duty have options for both federal and private loans, including the option to postpone payments and the ability to reduce the interest rate to 6% through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.”
Under SCRA, military servicemembers have the option to defer their loans while on active duty as well, but Mondo says she’s never been approved past the three-year mark.
“They say they can’t defer my private loans for more than three years, even though I’ll be serving for four more years,” she says.
In the meantime, Mondo’s been granted a two-year extension with the Army, which has agreed to cover her loan payments through the end of 2013. But it’s an option she’d rather she didn’t have to take.
“I just want Sallie Mae to treat military service members the same as the Federal Government,” she says. “This has been a huge battle and the reason I started this petition is that I work with a lot of people and we all talked about how Sallie Mae isn’t very helpful. They’re not very military friendly. There are already enough stressors for us. It’s just another unnecessary stress of the day.”