Probably the last thing parents mourning a deceased child want to do is deal with late notices from creditors—especially when those notices are for a student loan taken out by their lost loved one. That's what happened to pastor Steve Mason, who found himself saddled with a $100,000 bill after his 27-year-old daughter died five years ago, leaving him and his wife to raise their three grandkids on the relatively modest salaries they both earn at a local church, reports CNN. As a co-signer on his daughter's private student loans, Mason was on the hook for her IOU, which turned into $200,000 after interest and late fees piled up.
While there's been some governmental progress at alleviating the heavy burden of student debt—which grew nationwide at an average clip of 6% per year between 2008 and 2012, according to the Project on Student Debt—families like the Masons who have lost a child find themselves in a troublesome situation: Unless they have a federally backed loan, explains CNN, the loan typically can't be discharged in a bankruptcy, and the lender isn't required by law to forgive the loan or lower interest or payment amounts (though some lenders have done so as an act of goodwill). "People with other debt from splurging—they can discharge that," Mason tells CNN. "But somehow getting [my daughter] an education has encumbered me for the rest of my life."