CHICAGO (CBS) — A doctor living the good life in the suburbs is still struggling to pay off student loans, and the University of Chicago didn’t make it any easier when she accidentally missed a single payment.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory dives into why this mother of two had to call on the federal government to help investigate the university’s financial aid office.
She’s a momma bear at home and a fierce protector of her patients at work, so it makes sense Dr. Dionna Lomax wasn’t going to give up when she needed to speak to someone at her alma mater’s financial aid office.
“I had to hunt them down,” she said. “It shouldn’t have taken this.”
The determined alumna of the University of Chicago graduated from medical school in 2007, and she is still paying off student loans.
Unfortunately, she recently missed a payment, which resulted in her credit score being dinged.
“With having babies and life, I just forgot ,” Lomax said.
Lomax said she called the University of Chicago financial aid office several times with no response.
“I tried to call them directly to see, ‘Well, let me send a payment. I’m sorry.’ And so I couldn’t get a hold of them to make that phone call,” she said.
“I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ You have a person who has given you a loan, and servicing it, but you can’t contact them,” she added. “I just started doing Google searches on what sort of recourse do I have as a consumer to have them reported for not answering the phone.”
That brought her to the Ombudsman Office at the U.S. Department of Education. The Federal Student Aid website calls it “a financial resource after individuals look for help through other customer service avenues.”
An investigator took her case, and then an executive at the university financial aid office called her back.
“I reported them to the federal government. Now they’re nice. Now they’re responsive,” Lomax said. “They, of course, denied not answering the phone, the person who was in the department. The person at the executive level said, ‘We’ll talk to that person.’”
Lomax said the university has been great since the feds got involved.
A University of Chicago spokesperson sent a statement about the school’s financial aid programs but did not address Lomax’s case or answer questions about the ombudsman investigation:
“The Pritzker School of Medicine provides extensive scholarship support, low-interest institutional loans, and financial advice to help students manage the financial components of a medical school education. We offer students an elective course on money management and one-on-one meetings to devise strategies to reduce borrowing and manage debt. Our current average student debt is below the average debt of graduates from public and private medical schools and we consistently look to decrease this figure, Privacy laws prevent us from commenting on individual students.”
Lomax’s $130,000 in student loan debt is almost gone after 10 years of payments, even with two kids’ mouths to feed and a beautiful house with a mortgage.
She said she contacted CBS 2 about her dispute with the University of Chicago because she knows she’s not the only person in this situation.
“I have friends who owe $400,000,” she said. “These are student loans. The credit card company gives you more grace than a student loan.”
Lomax said her complaint filed with the federal ombudsman is still open.