Linda Tanski hadn’t finished grieving for her murdered daughter before the requests for student loan payments arrived.
Colonie native and SUNY Cobleskill graduate Lauren Tanski, 26, was found strangled and beaten in her New Orleans apartment on Jan. 14. She died with about $30,000 in outstanding federal student loans and about $60,000 in private loans.
The federal loans were immediately forgiven, per federal law, but the private loan, a “signature” loan from Sallie Mae, lived on, according to her mother.
“As a matter of fact, they only gave me a 60-day grace … [then] they immediately dropped that into my lap,” Linda Tanski said.
Despite sending her daughter’s death certificate to the private loan firm, she said they offered their condolences and were still requesting payment of the loan. The company, said the 53-year-old, wanted payments of $540 a month.
Help could be on the way, though, with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., sponsoring legislation that would require all student loans to be forgiven if the borrower dies.
The law would include instances where a parent was a co-signer on the loan, which was the case with Tanski.
Schumer’s legislation is called “Andrew’s Law,” which is in honor of a Syracuse man, Andrew Prior, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident.
His federal loans were forgiven, and two of the private loan firms forgave the loans, but American Education Services kept demanding payment from Andrew’s parents.
It took more than two years of work by Andrew’s parents and Schumer’s office to get the third private loan forgiven.
“No parent should ever be put through the ringer by callous servicers and lenders,” said Schumer in a news release. “And there is no question that we need to put this common sense and compassionate policy into law.”
Many private companies like Wells Fargo already have established policies that forgive student debt in the case of death or disability. Sallie Mae now forgives its Smart Option Student Loan, which replaced the signature loan Laura Tanski received.
“Sadly, we can’t always rely on these private companies to do the right thing for suffering parents and we need to write the rules,” he added.
Tanski hopes Schumer’s proposal becomes law, saying “it would be great.”
In the wake of Laura Tanski’s death, some of her friends planned on organizing a fundraiser to help pay off some of the loans.
One of those friends, Raechelle Gonzalez, said in a text message, “I don’t think it’s fair that Lauren’s family has to deal with the grief of losing her, funeral expenses and now the expense of her education that she cannot even utilize.”
Linda Tanski is in the process of writing a letter to Sallie Mae to again make the case that the loan should be forgiven.
Schumer is looking for someone to sponsor his legislation in the House of Representatives.