Student loan company Sallie Mae has been accused of harassing the family of a Duke Law student, who died in a car accident in last year, to pay back his loan.
Andrew Katbi, 24, died on Mar. 31, 2013, in a 95-car pile-up on Interstate 77.
His student loans came from three companies – Sallie Mae, Discover and Citi.
Katbi’s family says Citi and Discover immediately forgave the loans, “not questions asked.”
Sallie Mae, however, pursued the family. The Katbi’s say every night they received a phone call and a voicemail from Sallie Mae.
After Katbi’s mother sent a certified letter confirming that her son had died, Sallie Mae rolled the debt over onto her because she had co-signed Andrew’s loan. Under existing rules, Katbi’s family would be required to pay the loan even if they declared bankruptcy.
Andrew’s father reportedly told a Sallie Mae “customer advocate,” after hours on the phone, that they Duke community was on their side.
The advocate said if Duke loved Andrew so much then maybe they could pay off his debt.
Andrew’s sister Olivia listened to her parents on the phone with Sallie Mae for two hours and decided she had enough. She launched a Twitter campaign against the company.
One supporter tweeted, “no excuse for causing pain to a family who tragically lost a loved one particularly when it's due to carelessness @salliemae.”
“Sorry for your loss & about what those heartless *ssholes at @SallieMae are trying to do to your family,” wrote another.
The campaign garnered so much support for the family that Sallie Mae finally backed down.
“Thank you, everyone, for your support. Sallie Mae is now working with us,” Olivia tweeted Wednesday.
“Due to confidentiality that's all I can say,” she added. “Oh, and my family can move on n stuff.”
While federal student loans have loan forgiveness in the event that the person dies, private loans do not. Federal law does not require that private lenders discharge loans after death.