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On Adriene McNally's 49th birthday in January, she heard a knock on the door of her modest row-home in Northeast Philadelphia.
She was being served.
They actually paid someone to come out and serve me papers on a Saturday afternoon," she says.
The papers were from a government lawsuit that represents something more than just an unwelcome birthday gift — it's an example of a program the federal government has brought to 19 cities around the country including Brooklyn, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia: suing to recover unpaid student loans, like the ones McNally owes.
Every day, 3,000 people default on their federal student loans — and those lack of payments amount to an unpaid bill of $137 billion for the federal government.
For decades, the government has tried to get borrowers to pay up by hiring debt collection agencies to call and send letters. But now the government is trying this new lawsuit strategy.
McNally filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and cleared out all her creditors — except for student loans, which are nearly impossible to get rid of in bankruptcy. As she and many others have found out, it's not easy escaping federal student loan debt.