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April 16, 2019

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UUP tests new student loan repayment app


uupdate 4-16-19

UUP members have been taking advantage of chapter-based student debt clinics sponsored by UUP and its national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers.

Now, they will soon have access to a new online app that makes it easier to check their eligibility for—and to enroll in—federal student loan repayment programs.

Close to 65 Binghamton Chapter members were the first UUPers to get a sneak peek at Summer, a start-up website created by a group of recent college graduates to help student loan borrowers navigate the complex repayment process. Summer, founded in partnership with Yale University, is working with colleges and employers to help borrowers manage their student loans.

The AFT tapped UUP for the Summer pilot, which was integrated into the student debt clinic April 11 at Binghamton University. The AFT has not formally announced a partnership with Summer, and is currently deciding on the appropriate timeline for sharing Summer’s web app beyond the in-person student debt clinics.

However, there is an AFT webpage about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program on the Summer website.

"This (app) is a manna from heaven,” said 54-year-old Kimberly Peabody, above, a Binghamton Chapter member. She currently owes $68,000 for her doctorate at Texas Woman’s University, and is hoping to enter retirement “financially free."

"I have been trying to find out more about what’s available, and to find the time to fill out all of the paperwork,” she said. "I am really excited about the app. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."

uupdate 4-16-19

Summer Co-founder and CEO Will Sealy, above, said Summer combines innovative technology and policy expertise to serve student loan borrowers across the country. The app helps borrowers track their loans in one place, and recommends the best repayment plan for their individual situation, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that enables qualifying public workers to discharge their loans after 10 years.

"In an industry known for misinformation and bad actors, we promise to stand on the side of borrowers," said Sealy.

A rigged system

A scathing Feb. 12 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) exposed an alarming lack of oversight of nine student loan giants responsible for handling $1.4 trillion in federal loans to tens of millions of American student loan borrowers. Among the litany of disturbing findings, the report reveals how the system is often rigged to mislead borrowers to boost profits of student loan service companies.

With its student debt clinics, UUP is taking a lead role in doing what the OIG has shown the student loan servicers are not: telling members about the federal programs that can significantly lower monthly payments or completely forgive the debt.

"I could end up with several thousand dollars back in my pocket every year to help pay for my future," Peabody said. "I’m thrilled."


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