Tampa Bay resident says his student loans have been forgiven, but he wants the payments he made back

Millions of Americans are saddled with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. But some never graduated, were ripped off by a for-profit college, or should never have received a loan in the first place.

At the end of August, Americans with student loan debt will resume making payments.

WUSF brings you the stories of some Tampa Bay residents whose lives have been shaped by their student loan debt.

We hear more from a Hillsborough County resident who recently had their student loans forgiven.

MORE VOICES ON STUDENT DEBT:

Michael Odom had lived overseas for many years, but when his mother fell ill, he decided to move to Tampa to take care of her.
Once there, he decided to pursue a technical career, so he enrolled in the School of Medical Billing and Coding at what was then Florida Metropolitan University, where he contracted just under 20 $000 in student loans.

“I thought it was the perfect time for me to be back home for technical training, because at some point my helping duties would be over and I would be left there, having to move on with my life. .”

The school ended up being a scam – part of the now defunct Corinthian Colleges network. Odom took classes for a few months and then decided to leave.

“The place was operating at a 10th grade high school level, the infrastructure was falling apart, they moved us from a converted commercial building to a retail building,” he said. “Sometimes you could hear instructions from another class within the walls. So my thing was like, this is obviously a for-profit institution, which I didn’t know I was out of the country for all these years.”

As his mother’s caregiver, Odom did not earn any money and could not repay his loan. He later realized that he should never have received the loan in the first place because he had not lived or worked in the United States for the required length of time when he received the loan.

For a time, he was subject to wage garnishment, which put immense pressure on his financial stability.

“And when wage garnishment hit me, I went from working for $14 an hour to $10.87 an hour, so from that perspective alone you can understand what it was like someone’s day-to-day, week-to-week salary, survival, as well as the mental anguish of knowing you’re in this financial stranglehold.”

Finally, Odom submitted a request to the Borrower’s Reimbursement Defense Program to attempt to resolve the issue. And in April, Odom received a letter saying his loans were cancelled.

“Not having a financial obligation to this institution is a great relief because, you see, I’m a world traveler. So let’s say I stop working here and want to go somewhere else. If I have to Pay them this student loan every month and I miss a payment or I said, “Hey, I’m going to move”, wherever I go and move and move, this wage garnishment follows me everywhere . , and you can’t plan.”

Dominique Baker is assistant professor of educational policy at Southern Methodist University. She says the Borrower’s Repayment Defense Program gives people whose college has taken advantage of them the chance to have their loans waived or canceled — though it can take a lot of paperwork.

“It’s usually one of the best ways to try if predatory lending has been made to a borrower,” she said. “It can be an incredibly difficult road to travel.”

Baker says some college loan researchers and activists are pushing for stricter access to the federal student loan program for colleges, so some of these situations could be stopped before they happen.

Odom now works as a paint correction specialist at an auto body repair shop in Seminole Heights. He says he doesn’t need a lot of money to live on when he retires, but he would like to give what he has to his eight grandchildren.

And while Odom’s loans have finally been canceled, he wants the money he’s paid over the years.

“I think I owe restitution,” he said. “I’ve literally suffered years of emotional anguish in this financial stranglehold, knowing I was right all along, and they’ve completely blocked me on all fronts. All I want is to recover. my money.”

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