Social Media Success: Youth-Led Campaign Ends Sallie Mae's Unemployment Fees
If at first you don't succeed, show up in person with your online petition in hand! It worked for one young advocate.
On Feb. 2, 2012, in response to an online petition spearheaded by a 23-year-old borrower, student loan provider Sallie Mae changed its fee policy.
According to a New York Times article by reporter Tamar Lewin, "For years, Sallie Mae had required unemployed people who could not afford their monthly payments to pay a $50-per-loan fee every three months to suspend their payments temporarily, even as interest charges mounted." The fee was not applied to the loan's interest or principle.
Stef Gray, 23, held private loans through Sallie Mae. Unable to pay back her student loans because she is unemployed, Gray became frustrated by these extra fees. She decided to start an online petition on Change.org. She got more than 77,000 signatures, but Sallie Mae didn't respond. So she went to Washington herself and held a press conference. (She took with her Molly Katchpole, 22, the force behind the recent petition that got Bank of America to stop charging a fee for debit card use.)
A Good Start
Pleased by this victory, Gray stresses that the work is not done. Here's her story and the next call to action:
"I’m Stef Gray. In December, I started a Change.org petition asking Sallie Mae to stop charging unemployment penalties -- extra fees to jobless people who pause their student loan repayment. (They’ve been charging me $150 every three months, while I’m struggling to buy groceries!)
"Sallie Mae didn’t respond -- even after 77,000 people signed the petition.
"So yesterday morning, I went to the Sallie Mae office in D.C. to deliver my petition in person. TV cameras were there, and I handed every signature to an exec who wouldn’t even look me in the eye.
"Less than 3 hours later, Sallie Mae announced to the press they were changing their policy, and would start applying these fees towards borrowers’ loans instead of just pocketing the cash for extra profits.
'I’m psyched that bringing the fight to Sallie Mae forced them to start paying attention, but this policy change isn’t nearly enough. Sallie Mae is still asking me (and unemployed and underemployed grads like me) to fork over money we just don’t have.
"Sign the petition below so Sallie Mae knows we’re not going to give up until they drop this unfair fee for good!"
To sign the petition, click the link below.