Posted June 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm, in Allied Approaches
Collection agencies do not make condolence calls. I understand this, believe me. But there are certain events in life during which people deserve to be treated with more than standard human decency. (Yes, I realize I’m pretending that treating people with human decency is standard these days. Humor me.) A death in the family — especially the death of a child — is one of those times.
Or at least it used to be. The story of Francisco Reynoso’s struggle to pay off his dead son’s student loans, while dealing with collection agencies in the midst of his grief, suggests that times are changing. And not for the better.
Apparently, Ben Franklin was only partly right. These days, nothing in life is certain, except death, taxes, and student loans.
A few months after he buried his son, Francisco Reynoso began getting notices in the mail. Then the debt collectors came calling. “They would say, ‘We don’t care what happened with your son, you have to pay us,’” recalled Reynoso, a gardener from Palmdale, Calif.
Reynoso’s son, Freddy, had been the pride of his family and the first to go to college. In 2005, after Freddy was accepted to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, his father co-signed on his hefty private student loans, making him fully liable should Freddy be unwilling or unable to repay them. It was no small decision for a man who made just over $21,000 in 2011, according to his tax returns.
“As a father, you’ll do anything for your child, Reynoso, an American citizen originally from Mexico, said through a translator.
Now, he’s suffering a Kafkaesque ordeal in which he’s hounded to repay loans that funded an education his son will never get to use loans that he has little hope of ever paying off. While Reynoso’s wife, Sylvia, is studying to be a beautician, his gardening is currently the sole source of income for the family, which includes his 18-year-old daughter Evelyn.
And the loans are maddeningly opaque. Despite the help of a lawyer, Reynoso has not been able to determine exactly how much he owes, or even what company holds his loans. Just as happened with home mortgages in the boom years before the 2008 financial crash, his son’s student loans have been sold and resold, and at least one was likely bundled into a complex Wall Street security. But the trail of those transactions ends at a wall of corporate silence from companies that include two household names: banking giant UBS and Xerox, which owns the loan servicer handling the bulk of his loans. Left without answers is a bereaved father. (more…)