Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti's son, Kevin, was murdered last year in a case that still hasn't been solved. And, as the New York Times reveals in an extensive look at New Jersey's student loan industry completed in cooperation with ProPublica, DeOliveira-Longinetti is not only grieving her son but is being forced to pay off some of his student loans, for which she had co-signed. Though the balance of his federal loans was written off, he also got money from the state of New Jersey, which told his mother that her "request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness." The NYT/ProPublica investigation found that this is "hardly an isolated" occurrence in New Jersey, and looks at other cases, like that of a 26-year-old who had to declare bankruptcy, a 31-year-old against whom four simultaneous lawsuits were filed by the state, and a borrower who got cancer but was not allowed to defer his payments and was ultimately sued for $266,000.
The state's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority "runs by far the largest state-based student loan program in the country," the Times states, and its lending rules are different and much stricter than those in most other states: The loans have high interest rates, repayments cannot be adjusted based on income, and there's little help for borrowers who lose their jobs or face other money troubles. Plus, without needing court approval, the state can garnish wages, rescind income tax refunds, seize lottery winnings, and even revoke professional licenses of people having trouble paying. "It’s state-sanctioned loan-sharking," a bankruptcy lawyer says. "The New Jersey program is set up so that you fail." As for DeOliveira-Longinetti, she's made 18 payments since her son's murder and has about 92 left. Click for the full piece, or two more similarly sad stories here and here.