Fat and Not Afraid

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This is a Story All About How

April 4, 2017

My life got twist, turned upside down. Let me take a minute, just sit right there! And I'll tell you how I came to have over $55,000 in defaulted student loans.

Once upon a time, back in 2003, I graduated highschool with honours. I received a small entrance grant to attend my local university where I began a 4 year BA in English in order to eventually go to teacher's college. This grant, plus money I had saved up myself and a bit from my parents, paid for my first year of school. The following year I moved out of their home, got an apartment with Ryan, and started receiving from the Ontario Student Assistance Program aka OSAP. Part of the loans are federal money, part of it is provincial but generally it's just known as OSAP. I ended up taking a year off mid-program, then another year as Gabe came along where I didn't receive any government funds as I wasn't in school. I graduated with my BA in the spring of 2009, the first person in my family to graduate from university. Yay!

Off I went to teacher's college in Thunder Bay where I crashed and burned hard at the end of my first semester, but that's a story for another day. That one semester added nearly $10,000 to my loans thanks to living away from home, travel costs, tuition and books. I ended up back at the local university doing a certificate program, from which I graduated in 2011. We moved to British Columbia for 2 years, then back to the Soo for 3 and were homeless and broke for 2 of those years, and now we're in Sudbury, always chasing better jobs for something resembling financial security. Following me around has been $55,000 in slowly growing (they're not interest free) student debt.

This past fall the federal Liberal government announced changes to the OSAP program that would allow students wanting to go to post-secondary education a break; more grants instead of loans, and maybe even free tuition if you were low enough income. That's fantastic and much needed for sure. Unfortunately, a part of those changes of who is low income enough or not affected my repayment assistance plan, making me ineligible, after nearly 6 years of paying $0.00 a month (because POOR) for that $0.00 payment. Suddenly I was 9 months behind and owing $1100 and change. How did THAT happen? Here's where it gets really fun:

We moved to Sudbury in April of last year. I applied, as I usually do every 6 months, for my repayment assistance, in May. I knew I was getting close to the end of my available months but wasn't sure *how* close. I sent off my online application and waited for the letter that would say I was approved for my $0.00 monthly payment. It never came. Canada Student Loans, the folks who run OSAP, started calling and let me know they still hadn't received anything so I submitted again online. They didn't get it. Now I'm 2 months behind. So I ask them to mail me a paper application, which I also didn't receive. Three months behind. Finally get the paper copy, fill it all out, mail it in with pay stubs for me and Ryan. Now I'm four months behind and starting to panic a little but Canada Student Loans reassures me that when my repayment is approved it will be back dated 6 months and I can immediately reapply for my final 6 months of assistance at which point, if I'm still poor (which I can practically guarantee them I will be) I'll be able to start Phase 2. Yay! Phase 2 is a little known thing about student loans; if after 5 years (60 months) you're still unable to repay your student loans, the government starts helping you out. You pay whatever you can of the asked amount, and the government kicks in the rest. Eventually your loan is paid off and you can become a functional member of adult society. WIN.

By this time it's mid-September, and one of the pay stubs that Ryan has submitted with my paperwork is his final one from EasyHome. He was no-fault fired and given severance pay. We included a letter explaining that his September pay is NOT a normal one and does not in any way indicate what was his normal income, and oh yeah, HE WAS FIRED and going forward had $0 coming in for gods knew how long. Also, did you know Canada Student Loans only cares about your GROSS income, not your net? And they don't ask about household expenses? They don't care how much daycare is, or your rent or hydro bill, or groceries or anything. They just want a percentage of your gross monthly income each month and apparently think that you can get blood from a stone.

LONG story short, my repayment assistance of $0.00 was not approved. They wanted over $400 a month, back dated to the spring, up front, ASAP, thanks to Ryan's severance pay and the federal changes in November. I don't have that kind of money, and no-one I know does either. If I could get them the money they'd continue working with me and maybe I could start Phase 2 of repayment assistance. My only other option was to appeal, which I did. I sent in a year's worth of pay stubs for each of us, and another letter explaining his firing and our life expenses. In mid-March my appeal was rejected, after which they sent my loans back to the government. Now the Ontario Ministry of Finance wants $11,000 up front before they'll even talk to me about making minimum monthly payments of $1000.00, and the federal folks want $545 a month, starting May 30th. It was supposed to be $900 but I talked them down somewhat. If I couldn't make $400 a month way back when, what on earth makes them think I can do $1500 now? And forget about Phase 2. That's completely gone.

Expenses  
Rent  $   1,500.00
Groceries  $       600.00
Utilities  $       350.00
Internet  $       130.00
Childcare  $       224.00
Phones  $       300.00
OSAP  $       104.00
CIBC  $       100.00
Car  $       418.40
Insurance  $       285.00
Gas  $       120.00
Repayment  $       520.00
Total  $   4,651.40

So right now I'm trying to think of ways to raise $11,000 before the Ontario Ministry of Finance starts garnishing my wages; Stripping? Prostitution? Sell a kidney? I can't become a surrogate because my uterus is broken. Egg donation is legal in Canada but complicated and time consuming with no guarantee of solid financial return (unlike in the States where I could get good money for all these eggs I'm not using.) I suppose I could go to the competition, like MoneyMart, and get a large loan (since the banks wont touch me w my bad credit), use that to pay off some of what I owe, then just pay MoneyMart back at a much higher interest rate for the rest of my life, plus pay the rest of my student debt. Somehow. Ha. Ha.

At this rate I will never have any savings for emergencies, buy a house, send my kids to post-secondary education, save for retirement, or do all of those other Adult Things that help our economy. My university degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and going to school is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Some nice people have suggested I start a crowdfunding thing like Patreon or GoFundMe. It's a thought.

 

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