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We Have $1.6 Trillion of Student Debt. Sallie Mae Celebrated by Sending 100 Employees to Maui.

A graduating student wears a money lei, a necklace made of US dollar bills.

According to NBC News, private student loans lender Sallie Mae flew 100 of its employees to Maui to celebrate a record year of $5 billion in sales. Except those “sales” are all real people, many of whom are finding themselves buried under the debt Sallie Mae is celebrating and helping to create.

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Roughly one in five adults age 30-44 have student debt, as well as about one-third of adults under 30, meaning the problem is growing. Our national student loan debt totals about $1.6 trillion. Nearly a quarter of all people with student debt say they have trouble getting by or that they’re just barely doing so. The delinquency rate on student loans is higher than any other form of household debt–around 11%. There was an entire game show dedicated to making people compete to erase their student debt. Calling this a crisis is not hyperbole.

So people were rightly pissed to hear that 100 salespeople had been flown to Hawaii to celebrate all of this. It was one of the rare times that a name is trending on Twitter and people are disappointed to hear nothing terrible had happened to them. If only we could “cancel culture” this one out of existence.

Sallie Mae tried to defend themselves by basically saying “We’re just a bank! We just love your kids! Don’t blame us, blame the government!”

And yes, we do also blame the government. We blame a lot of people and institutions. And Sallie Mae is definitely one of them. Sallie Mae and Navient (which until just a few years ago were the same company) were recently sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for deceptive practices. They were accused of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

According to the CFPB, the companies “created obstacles to repayment by providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to act when borrowers complained. Through shortcuts and deception, the company also illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans.”

Sallie Mae may just be a bank, but they’re a for-profit bank, and the kind of bank that sees tens of millions of people struggling and decides that’s a fun reason to go to Hawaii.

(via NBC News, image: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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