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Sallie Mae changes fee after online student protest

Stef Gray launched an

against a $50 loan forbearance fee imposed by private student loan giant Sallie Mae. The fee is $50 per loan for a maximum of $150 per three-month reprieve on payments.

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Gray, who says she hasn't been able to find a full-time job since graduating last year, launched an online campaign against the fee. So far she’s collected more than 78,000 signatures in support.

Sallie Mae said yesterday it is revising the fee, adding that this was something it had been thinking about for some time.

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The company issued a statement: “When customers experiencing temporary financial difficulty ask to suspend scheduled payments, we ask for a good-faith payment to emphasize the terms and long-term implications of their decision to use forbearance.  We have been giving it careful consideration for some time, and will now apply the good-faith payment to the customers’ balance after they resume a track record of on-time payments.”

Sallie Mae will continue to charge the fee. But now, borrowers will get the fees applied to their balance after making six months’ worth of on time payments.

Gray posted online that Sallie Mae changed its tune in less than three hours after her petition was dropped off at the lender’s headquarters. But Gray says she’s not giving up, because Sallie Mae didn’t go far enough.

“I'm amazed that we've made this kind of progress against a financial behemoth like Sallie Mae, but it's also clear that their action wasn't enough. It does nothing to help borrowers like me who are in real financial trouble. Sallie Mae isn't going to get rid of us by offering weak half-measures.

"If we can keep up the pressure, we can get exactly what we asked for - an end to their greedy unemployment penalty. You can help: please sign my petition and share it with everyone you know right away."

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