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Nicole JacksonA Miami, Fla.-based attorney is stiffing Sallie Mae and Direct Loans. Nicole Jackson, 44, has been reimbursing a $186,000 student loan bill for more than 20 years. Even when her student loan payments were higher than her monthly mortgage payments, she didn’t see a decrease in her balance. So instead of spending the remainder of her life sending payments to loan companies, Jackson has given up on reimbursing them and focus on saving for her three teenage daughters’ college educations.

“The way I see it, I’m already screwed,” Jackson told Business Insider. “I’d rather make sure my kids are OK. Unless I start making significantly more money [my situation] is not gonna change.”

Jackson accrued her massive loan bill while pursuing her law degree at the University of Miami.

Business Insider reports:

At the beginning of her story, Jackson, a native New Yorker, was one of the lucky ones. Her father, a doctor, paid for a year of her undergraduate studies, leaving her free to dodge student loans for a while. And with a well-paying job at a Manhattan law firm, she had more than enough funds to finance the rest of her undergraduate studies.

But when Jackson decided to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney at the University of Miami, it became impossible to avoid taking on debt.

“My intention was to go back to work after my first year of law school,” she said. “[But] I did so poorly that I didn’t think I could [keep a job at the same time]. So that’s when I started borrowing money.”

It was a costly decision. Jackson took out about $26,000 in federal loans for each year of law school and then another $20,000 in private loans to keep afloat while she studied for the bar exam.

She graduated in 1994 with more than $100,000 of debt. Within three years, she had one daughter, a surprise set of twins, and was earning less than $50,000 per year.

“It’s always been a struggle,” she said. “I worked for the state of Florida most of my [career] and the most I was making was $50,000/year. With three kids, it wasn’t enough money.”

Jackson began reimbursing her private loans, but found she couldn’t afford it with her growing family.

The payments were only $130/month, but since private lenders don’t offer the same deferment options as federal, it was either pay or roll out the welcome mat for debt collectors.

Meanwhile, her federal loans ballooned. With an 8% interest rate, they appreciated even after she consolidated, growing from a principal balance of about $80,000 in 1994 to $186,000 today. Other than her home and a car payment, it’s the only debt she carries to this day.

Eventually, her debt drove her back to New York, where she moved her family and took a lucrative job at a Manhattan law firm. She was finally able to start making federal loan payments, but the move took a toll on her family life.

“I was making six figures, working 13/14 hour days, and my kids were sad because I wasn’t around,” she said. “I wanted the money but I didn’t want my kids to be miserable. They were babies.”

After two years, they packed up and headed back to Miami, where Jackson continued plugging away on whatever legal cases came her way. Exhausted with state work, she started her own firm in 2008 with the hope that she’d earn more and could finally begin chipping away at her loans.

Last year, she was able to enroll in an income-based repayment plan for her federal loan, a perk that private lenders don’t offer. Her monthly payments were reduced to $74, though the prospect of paying $74/month on a $186,000 debt hasn’t exactly made the burden seem any lighter.

Jackson’s tale is familiar for many students. The United States is struggling with a $1 trillion student loan balance. Jackson hopes her daughters don’t fall into the same trap she did.

Jackson has established a college-savings plan for all three children. Her eldest daughter will start college in 2015.

“I’ve stressed to my daughter the importance of not borrowing any money. If she doesn’t get a scholarship or there’s money that needs to be found somewhere, I’ll borrow it myself and I’ll deal with it before I let her,” she said. “I don’t want my kids going into life with this over their heads.”

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  • noodle

    If you want to suspend loan payments, take 6 credit hours at juco for a semester or two or for a couple of years. If you owe 100,000 in loans..smh, it may be to your benefit, pay $240 that will stop 4 months of payments for as long as your alive, or bite the bullet and pay each month.

    • nessa

      you can’t take law classes at a junior collge

    • noodle

      The point is AFTER you finish school or no longer in school and you cant handle the payments, take 6 credit hours of something and you wont have to pay loan installments for at least 4 months. Exploit that loop hole aka “in school deferment” to ones advantage. You can literally do this for decades. $500+ dollars a month vs. $300 a semester to buy some time. The choice is yours

      if you owe over 100,000 in loans, cant make the monthly payment and are worried about your credit. Then I suggest doing that, it will stop the calls and it will stop monthly payments..

    • Karhai

      @ noodle – That is terrible advice. So basically in order to NOT pay back student loans, a person should stay continuously enrolled in a class for 6 credits hours a semester for THE REST OF THEIR LIFE? I’m sorry – this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

    • noodle

      better than defaulting isnt it.

    • Mademoiselle

      It’s still theft, so no it isn’t better than defaulting.

    • noodle

      By your logic, going into default is theft, since lenders are not getting their money regardless.

      The choices are:

      1.) Going into default and dealing with comes along with that.

      OR

      2.) Not going into default, buying time and not dealing with the troubles of defaulting, not having your wages garnished and still being able to at least get a decent apartment or what else.

      Again, the point is know all your options, keep morals and feelings off the table, lenders dont care good intentions, why should you.

    • Mademoiselle

      Yes, defaulting on loans IS theft. That’s why banks have legal recourse to pursue what’s owed to them in court. This game of hiding from repaying loans by taking smokescreen classes is also theft if the intent is to never repay money that was lent to you. I care because these thieves are why people who DO repay their debts have to pay interest. The options you’re laying out are steal and face the consequences or steal and run from the law. I say pay back what you owe and leave the tricks to cereal.

    • noodle

      Call it what you want to, no one will ever be convicted because it is not a crime. FEELINGS have nothing to do with whats on the table. If one wants to default, he or she can. If one dose not want to default you can always take more credits.

      But hay, you can always write your congress man about it.

  • Kara Zor-El

    All the people on this thread criticizing single mothers and asking about where her man/husband is look dumber than usual, because if any of you had bothered to actually click on the “Business Insider” link and read the original source article, instead of just the excerpt here, you would have noticed the second paragraph, second sentence where it says . . .

    “At $1600 per month, her monthly loan payments eclipsed her $1200/month mortgage and she and HER HUSBAND are raising three teenage daughters”

    Evette probably left that fun fact out on purpose just to bait you reactionary twits that have all the time in the world to write volumes and finger point at single mothers, but not enough time to do some extra reading before sliding off your soap boxes.

    • noodle

      That’s a good point, however, the vote bots will thumbs down this little bit of information, im even more surprised that it did not get deleted.

    • Roger

      @Kara Zor-El

      It still doesn’t excuse the fact that she made children she could not adequately provide for.

      Man of Steel this fri!

    • Kara Zor-El

      @Roger

      Except I didn’t say anything about people not having kids that they can’t provide for, now did I? Reading if Fundamental, there, Skippy. Why don’t you stick to the merits of my comment, if you’re going to address me.

      I’d refer you to the book version of Man of Steel, but I think you’d be better off just watching the movie. It’ll be easier for you to digest.

  • Yas

    I should have went to a public college. I regret the choice to this day. There needs to be much more education on this subject, because when you’re young and naive, you have no idea how much hot water those loans will get you into–especially when under employment and unemployment is the norm.
    Pay your debt–you owe it. Try to pay back what you can when you can–even if it’s a small amount, and make consistent monthly payments. Delaying it only increases the bottom line. Luckily, there is a new loan forgiveness program.

  • YIKES! I guess I should not complain about my current balance. I guess I am fortunate, I had a loan processor who gave me some great advice that have saved me at least $40,000 in student loans, still my current bill is nothing to sneeze at.

    Now if only I could land my dream job…I can have all my loans paid off in five years; if not, it may take a little longer but would never think of stiffing the loan program because that makes it more expensive for the next person who needs money to go to school.

  • rlridley

    My son has seen what having $60,000 in student loans has done to me and he is going to community college for the basics and an Associate’s and then will work and/or apply for scholarships when he goes for his Bachelor’s. I’ve been paying on my loans for 9 years and had just started seeing a dent in it when I lost my job. So, it’s going right back up. I recommend that every one instruct their children to cancel their loans upon their deaths as soon as they get your death certificate. I did that with my mom’s because she was still paying on her student loans at the time of her death out of her SSI check, $20 per month on a $2000 balance that never went down.