Sallie Mae flew 100 employees to Maui in celebration of the company selling $5 billion in student loans to more than 370,000 people. Meanwhile, many Americans dealing with the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt often have to work multiple jobs and sometimes end up declaring bankruptcy to protect what little assets they have left.
As the cost of college soars, the nation's largest private student loan company is celebrating a record year of lending. @CatieBeckNBC reports tonight from Maui, where a group of Sallie Mae employees were treated to 5-day trip.
Watch this story on @NBCNightlyNews. pic.twitter.com/Uzei8mkVAx— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) October 17, 2019
The trip, which was originally reported by NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, took place in August. Sallie Mae's CEO Ray Quinlan said it was not an incentive trip and that families had to be flown out on the employee's own dime.
That story did not settle well with borrowers like Paige McDaniel, 39, who described to NBC News the reaction she received from Navient, a lending company created as an off-shoot of Sallie Mae in 2014, after she was told her monthly payments would equal "well over $1,500 a month" for the $120,000 loan she took out to get her Master's degree, which eventually led her into bankruptcy.
“When I told them that, you know, I couldn't afford that, could we make some payment arrangements, they essentially said, 'So sorry, we'll put a lien on your house and garnish your wages if you don't make those payments,'" McDaniel told NBC News.
McDaniel, like many others, found issue with the business practices that allowed for the employees to take the trip.
"There's no way anybody can ever dig themselves out from underneath that," said McDaniel. "They just don't see that there are families on the other side of this."
The reported trip has been used by Sen. Bernie Sanders as evidence that Americans' student loan debt burden needs to be canceled.
Cancel all student debt. https://t.co/ZdLC9gaUqY— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 18, 2019
A report from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, estimates that by 2023, 40% of people with student loan debt will default on their payments.