Meet A Borrower in Public Service Who Got His Student Loans Forgiven
The following story was written by Roman Woodson, a community member who received assistance from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.
My name is Roman Woodson. I recently worked with the City Bar Justice Center’s Consumer Bankruptcy Project to get my federal student loans forgiven. I want to share my success story with you.
I am a public service employee who dedicated the last 15 years to supporting young adults with barriers to education and employment. I knew I would not earn a high income working for a non-profit organization. Still, I have been proud of my chosen career path because I have undoubtedly changed lives. When the Department of Education implemented the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) in 2007, which would forgive public service borrowers who made 10 years of repayment on their federal student loans, I saw a way to get a break from my crushing student loan debt and a chance at a better life.
I spent years trying to get approved for PSLF. I did everything required to apply for forgiveness; I worked full-time in public service, made payments under an income-driven repayment plan, completed the student loan forgiveness forms, and provided supporting documents. After 15 years of effort, I still owed over $50,000 in federal student loans from the 1990s. According to the payment schedule, paying off my debt would have taken an additional 30 years. I contacted the loan servicers, but I could not get anyone to answer my calls, respond to my emails, or explain why I had not been approved for PSLF. I felt lost and defeated. My job is to help and support others, and I did not know who could help and support me in this situation.
A colleague of mine told me about the Justice Center. I attended one of their webinars on managing student loan debt and afterward immediately connected with the Consumer Bankruptcy Project’s Director, Ramona Morel. I explained my situation to Ramona and shared that I felt helpless in dealing with the student loan servicing company. The first thing Ramona did was let me know she would serve as a representative in my case and do all she could to support me throughout this process. I felt like I might have a fighting chance for the first time in years. Ramona reached out to the servicer and did something I could not do by myself; she spoke to a live person! Ramona advocated on my behalf, asked all the right questions, requested my payment history, and ensured that I received credit for my time in public service. In less than two months, I received a letter from the servicer stating I was approved for PSLF and that my federal student loans were forgiven. Without the Justice Center’s advocacy, I would not have successfully gotten the servicer to properly update my account.
Had it not been for the work of the Justice Center, I would still be losing sleep at night. I have that letter on my door at home. I look at it every day before I leave the house. I am going to frame that letter. It is my reminder that there are those in the world, like the Justice Center, whose mission is to help others. I do not know what is better, having been recognized for my work in the non-profit sector or being forgiven a great debt that is now allowing me to focus my time, resources, and energy on others less fortunate than me. Either way, I am forever grateful.