Mother of 3 dies suddenly, parents left with her $200,000 student loan debt

The Masons with their grandchildren, Lisa's three children, ages nine, 12 and 14
The Masons with their grandchildren, Lisa’s three children, ages 9, 12 and 14

When California pastor Steve and Darnelle Mason suddenly lost their 27-year-old daughter Lisa to liver cancer in 2009, they had no idea their grieving would be compounded by harassment, desperation and possible financial ruin. A mother of three, Lisa amassed $100,000 in student loans via a private loan to fund her nursing school education. Her dad cosigned. Steve, who only makes $75,000 a year has been unable to keep up with the $2,000 a month payments and in the past five years, the loans have doubled to $200,000.

Lisa with her mom, Darnelle Mason
Lisa with her mom, Darnelle Mason

The Masons, who are caring for Lisa’s three children have tried to file bankruptcy and have the loans forgiven but to little avail. One of the lenders, Navient, lowered the interest rate to 0% on three of the four loans, reducing the debt owed from $35,000 to $27,000. American Education Services, who Steve owes the bulk of the money to, is not so sympathetic to his situation. Their defense is they are responsible to collect the money that is owed to them and didn’t make the rules about forgiveness. 


At 59, Steve has had to place his retirement plans on hold because with private student loans, there is nowhere to turn legally.

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