College graduate helps change Sallie Mae loan policy

Correction appended

Sallie Mae changed its student loan policy hours after receiving a 23-year-old student debt activist’s petition protesting the organization’s forbearance fee.

The $50 fee allows borrowers to defer payment on their loan for three months at a time on up to three separate loans, potentially totaling $150.

Stef Gray, an alumna of Hunter College, brought a petition against Sallie Mae Feb. 2 in protest of their fee, saying it’s an “unemployment penalty.”

Sallie Mae is the largest private student loan provider in the United States, according to the organization’s website.

Gray had more than 119,800 signatures on the petition as of Feb. 13, according to, the site she used to create the petition.

Originally, the paid fee was not subtracted from borrowers’ loan totals.

The fee cost college graduates hundreds of dollars each year, Gray said in a conference call with college journalists Feb. 6.

“It’s not really a deposit, because individuals do not get [the forbearance fees] back at the end,” Gray said. “If I were renting an apartment, and unless I burned the place down, I would get my deposit back when I moved out. That is not how it is with Sallie Mae.”

Sallie Mae changed its policy three hours after receiving Gray’s petition at the D.C. office. Paid forbearance fees will now go toward paying off students’ loan balances, Gray reported on, the Web’s fastest growing platform for social change, according to William Winters, a senior organizer for

Gray said she was dissatisfied with the policy change, because the fee is still charged.

Gray encouraged students to fact check the information about financial aid given to them by universities. She also said students should ask their universities’ financial offices which companies they promote.

AU sees fewer private student loans

AU has seen a decrease in private student loans over the past five years, according to Violeta Ettle, vice provost for academic administration.

Ettle attribute this to three factors: the federal government has created a federal loan for graduate students, the credit market has tightened, making it harder for students to secure private loans and AU has been working to discourage loan borrowing unless “absolutely necessary.”

She said AU has also made significant changes to its curriculum and infrastructure to help maximize students’ time and money, using:

•summer online learning programs,

•accelerated degree programs including three-year Bachelor of Arts programs with a fourth-year Masters degree option,

•a flat tuition rate for full-time undergraduates taking between 12 to 17 credits per semester

•and dual degree programs on campus that allow completion of two graduate degrees

The changes that are coming out of online petitions like Gray’s shows that people do not need to “sit back pacifically as corporate Goliaths try to overpower them,” Winters said.

A previous version of this story said Sallie Mae could not be reached for comment. The reporter did not contact Sallie Mae representatives; thus, it was inaccurate to say Sallie Mae could not be reached for comment.

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