Are you having trouble making your Sallie Mae payments?

I got my payments down from over $1000 a month to just $345

If you’re like me then you’re a newly graduated millennial with a brand new shiny degree and a fat glob of student debt to go with it. If you’re really like me, then you also have a cat (who is a complete asshole.)

I think we’ve reached the point where we should just start wearing our red numbers on our chest like scarlet letters, don’t you?

Now I’m going to cut to the chase. If you have a Sallie Mae loan and you’re having trouble making payments then this is for you. Lets follow my trip down holy-shit-this-cant-be-happening-lane.

I graduated in December and took advantage of my six month grace period where I only paid interest on one loan and a small fee on my second one during that time. Just like a did while I studied. (Paying interest while in school lowered my rate -for the first loan- just a bit. I couldn’t afford to pay interest on both loans while I was studying.)

Nearing the end of the grace period I got a beautiful message in my inbox informing me that my principal payments were about to start, and they were going to be about $1100 dollars per month. Now if you’re like me, you thought that six month grace period was enough to get a decent job to support yourself and your payments, right? Well, in those six months I lost one of my jobs and I’ve been living off of noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, barely making the rent and health insurance payments.

I was so stressed out trying to make ends meet, that I had completely forgot about my principal payments that were getting ready to start, so when I got that email I lost my collective shit.

The first thing I did was call up and take advantage of the Graduate Program.

I’d read about it in one of the fifty-million documents that Sallie Mae had sent me.

This is a new program that Sallie Mae is offering for those who are coming to the end of their grace periods. You can opt in, and for the next 12 months you will pay interest only on your loans. This can make it easier for a lot of you, but for me it was still too much. My larger of the two loans has a whopping 11% interest rate. My smaller one has a 7.5% rate. (Yes, I have a co-signer.) With my recent job loss, and the US exchange rate (because I studied and still live overseas) the $600 interest payment was still way too high in my current situation.

So what do you do?

Well, a couple of years ago I found an article in the deep web written by someone in the same boat as me, only his loans had been in default for a long, long time. What I learned from him is that Sallie Mae has another program that they don’t actively advertise. The Rate Reduction Program.

The memory of this article came bouncing back when I was up shit creek, so I swallowed my fear and called up Sallie Mae.

My account was current at the time. I had 1 payment left in my grace period. The first customer service agent I spoke to really didn’t know what the Rate Reduction program was, so I asked her to patch me over to the collection people because they handle finance. Logical right? She did, I was very lucky to speak to a very nice man over there who told me that yes, they have the Rate Reduction program, but that it was handled by another department.

Me: Could I speak to that department please?
Him: No Ma’am, I’m sorry. Your account has to be in default before I’m allowed to transfer you over to them.
Me: But if I don’t speak to them, my account will go default, because I can’t make these payments right now.
Him: I’m sorry Ma’am, but I’m not allowed to transfer you over with a current account.
Me: So … if I skip my next payment, then I can talk to them?
Him: …Yes. I shouldn’t tell you this, but you should wait until about 6 days after your payment is due, because we give you a 5 day grace period, then call us back and we can get you transferred.

So that’s what I did, and I incurred the wrath of my mother who is still very angry that my dad co-signed my loans so I could get through school. He was happy to do it, she’s hated my guts since I was a child. Getting 2 recorded calls from Sallie Mae over my loan tipped her over the edge and brought on the wrath. (I did warn them they would get a call or two.)


Listen up.

Call Sallie Mae, if you’re in default you’ll automatically be put through to collection agents. Tell those agents to put you through to the department that handles the Rate Reduction program.

If they don’t do this, hang up and call again.

The first agent I got refused to put me through unless I gave her verbal permission to take me out of the Graduate Program I had enrolled in, and she informed me that there was no guarantee I would get in the program, so I was just screwing myself, because if she took me out, I couldn’t get back in.

Once you’re out of the Graduate Program you can’t re-enroll. This is true.

I called the next day, and got a nice lady. She didn’t know much about the Rate Reduction program either, but she patched me through immediately to speak to the next department directly when I asked her to. So if the agent doesn’t want to help you, hang up and call again. I can’t say that enough.

This is where the magic happened.

The (very handsome sounding) man on the other end told me that yes, if I was put into the Rate Reduction program I would be un-enrolled from the Graduate Program and I could not be re-enrolled, but he could take my information and see if I could enroll in the RR program and what my new rate would be without taking me out of the GP. Then I could make a decision on what to do.

He took my information over the phone. I told him roughly how much money I was making at the current time, and listed out all of my bills that I paid every month (I actually forgot to tell him about my health insurance payment.)

He asked about my co-signer, and I informed him that mine was now permanently disabled and helping me out would be hard for him. (He told me I could have my dad removed from my loans based on that information. Win. I’m waiting on that paperwork.)

I was then put on hold, and he came back and informed me that he could enroll me in the RR program, and that for the next 24 months my overall interest would be about 2% and my principal payment would now be $345.47 per month.

Me: Which loan is that one for?
Him: That’s the payment for both of your loans together.
Me: I think I’m going to cry.

Spoiler alert: I did cry. On the phone. With a very handsome sounding man on the other end. He was very nice about it.

Guys, that’s half of my interest-only payment from the Graduate Program, and it’s PRINCIPAL. Which means for the next 24 months I’ll be kicking my big red number in the ass with REAL payments, and not just trying to keep up with the interest that is what’s killing all of us.

Now, in order to complete my enrollment I have to make 3 direct debit payments in a row and not default on those. He let me pick the day that the payments would come out of my account for the next three months.

Oh, and the money I owed from being in default + the next payment they were already hounding me for ($800ish total).

“Don’t worry about that. You just have to make these three payments. I’ve taken care of your default. After these three payments, your due date will revert back to your original due date every month and your enrollment will be complete. If you have trouble with the date transition, you can call us back and we can look into adjusting your due date then.”

I really wanted to marry this man right then and there over the phone.

If you’re up shit creek, like me, and having trouble, take advantage of this program.

There are a number of other banks that allow you to consolidate your student loans and offer you lower overall rates, (Sofi, Laurell Road, CommonBond) but I was having trouble getting any of them to accept me, even with a co-signer. The RR program gave me a better rate than what I may have gotten with the other banks (their rate would still be much lower than my current normal ones though). It’s also given me 2 years to build my credit back up and make it easier to consolidate later when my program ends and I’m (hopefully) much more financially stable.

Good luck follow debters.

JLRose is an American fantasy writer, 3D artist and game designer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s spent the past three years working on the first book of The Galean Universe and is currently querying it to agents.

She has just published her first completed work, The Chase, to Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Find it here.

This is the first installment of The Lockwood Series, a mini-series from The Galean Universe that follows Cosima Lockwood, an ocelot shifter with a penchant for trouble.