Within months of receiving his diploma from Vanguard University near Los Angeles in May 2012, Edgar Zakata started having multiple seizures. He had suffered from epilepsy for most of his life, but medication had always kept the convulsions at bay. Not anymore.
Before he could put his psychology degree to use, Zakata began experiencing up to seven seizures a day. There were visits to the emergency room. There were CAT scans and cocktails of medications to get his condition under control. Nothing worked.
Zakata’s prospects were bad enough for the Department of Education to discharge the $25,000 he owed the government, but not for Sallie Mae to grant a similar disability waiver for the $8,000 it was due.
Education loans provided by banks and other financial firms carry fewer protections for the borrower than those offered by the federal government. Private lenders are under no obligation to work with borrowers when they fall behind on payments or, as in Zakata’s case, are unable to repay the debt because of a disability.