A California family lost their daughter to liver disease four years ago. It was an unexpected death, considering that Lisa Mason was only 27 years old. In her absence, Lisa’s parents, Steve and Darnelle Mason, are now caring for her three children.
On top of the financial responsibilities that come with embracing their three grandchildren into their California home has come an unexpected guest: a whopping $100,000 in private loans.
The Masons say that they co-signed for their daughter’s private loan and realized that they would have to step in and pay the bills if their daughter could not pay them or refused to do so. What shocked them the most was that, the moment their daughter died, within a week they were contacted by bill collectors who said that they, as Lisa’s parents, would now have to assume her $100,000 of private loan debt and pay off the remaining balance. Lisa had started working and paying off her nursing school debt from the moment she graduated, so some portion of Lisa’s debt had already been paid. “We knew if she didn’t pay her debt we would be responsible by co-signing, but we didn’t know that if she died the debt would fall to us,” Steve Mason said.
Steve and Darnelle Mason are now paying upwards of $2,000 a month while taking care of their three grandchildren. Steve Mason is also a minister who is living off meager means, and the family does not have the financial means to cover the loans. Some private lenders have shown some manner of forgiveness, even if small, and one of the remaining loans was forgiven while they were headed to the Fox News studio.
As for what should be done, the California family believes that private loans should be treated no differently than public loans. Public loans are forgiven in instances where a person or couple files for bankruptcy, but private loans are not. Additionally, student loans should be forgiven in the event that a person dies suddenly. The California family says that they had no idea their daughter would die suddenly and leave them with $100,000 of private school loans.
Lisa Mason was a nursing graduate who desperately wanted to achieve her dream. In that regard, she was no different than any other twentysomething who knew that loans, even worth $100,000, were a small price to pay to reach her dream of becoming a productive member of society. Now, she is gone, unable to have worked long enough to pay the debt – and, after suffering the grief of her death, the family has an additional grief with her student loans.
There should be a way to go back to the old loan system. Some young adults remember the days when, in California or elsewhere, 18-year-olds could borrow their own loans without co-signers. Today, every educational loan has a co-signer, which means that all those parents will be paying their children’s loans in the event that those children should die suddenly. Where will lenders be if parents stop co-signing, and children stop borrowing for their educational pursuits? Something must be done, and it is a good thing that this California family is speaking out about it.