Federal grants converted to loans because of alleged paperwork issues forcing teachers to pay thousands.
A Middle Tennessee teacher was part of major National Public Radio investigation that is now helping reverse these changes.
Kaitlyn McCollum went to MTSU to be a teacher.
“My goal was to graduate college debt free,” McCollum said. “At one point I think I had three jobs at a time.”
McCollum also received a TEACH grant with this criteria for after she graduated.
“Four years of eight years in my subject area in a low income school,” McCollum said.
McCollum is a high school Spanish teacher in Columbia.
For three years she submitted paperwork signed by her principal showing she was doing just that. After submitting for the fourth year she got a letter saying her TEACH grant was now a student loan.
“It was $4,000 for each of my years of undergrad, plus interest, some gaining interest since 2009 when I originally took the grant,” McCollum said.
McCollum said the total is close to $24,000.
The conversion was because FedLoan said they got her paperwork after the July 31st deadline.
McCollum filed an appeal with FedLoan which was denied. She also went to lawmakers, her union and even attorneys with no luck.
“$24,000 that’s more than half of my annual salary,” McCollum said.
McCollum and her husband decided to downsize their home to try and save money.
About to start repayment she saw an NPR article about a teacher in the same situation forced to pay $4,000, so she tweeted at the NPR reporters.
“I said something like if you think $4,000 is bad quadruple that and let’s talk,” McCollum said.
The reporters reached out to her and wrote about her situation.
With McCollum’s story, months of investigative reporting and working with the U.S. Department of Education NPR was able to give McCollum great news last week.
“They have decided to reopen the cases that have been converted because of paperwork issues,” McCollum said. “It’s like Christmas came early.”
After submitting paperwork McCollum’s loan should be converted back to the grant it once was.
For other teachers in this situation, visit the Department of Education’s website to see how to apply for the reconsideration, click here.