In January 2015, Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti's 23-year-old son Kevin was found dead in a home in Burlington, Vermont, the town where he'd attended college at University of Vermont. Authorities later ruled his death a homicide.
A year later, DeOliveira-Longinetti is still dealing with the aftermath of her son's death by way of grief, but also by way of Kevin's remaining student debt. According to the New York Times, when DeOliveira-Longinetti applied to New Jersey's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority for loan forgiveness, lenders answered with a flat-out rejection.
In a letter, the agency offered its "condolences" for DeOliveira-Longinetti's loss before reportedly adding: "After careful consideration of the information you provided, the authority has determined that your request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness. Monthly bill statements will continue to be sent to you."
According to the Times, DeOliveira-Longinetti has about 92 $180 payments left.
The Times reported that the New Jersey loan agency has earned a reputation for being unreasonably rigid, with especially high interest rates, payment plans that can't be adjusted based on income and extreme consequences for those who fall behind on monthly payments. The agency has reportedly sued borrowers and has the unmitigated power to garnish wages and seize state tax refunds.
According to ABC News, cosigners of federal student loans need only present a death certificate to be immediately forgiven for remaining debt. However, both private loans and state loans vary in their "death discharge protection" policies.
"We're not going to be poor because of this," DeOliveira-Longinetti told the Times. "But every time I have to pay this thing, I think in my head, this is so unfair."