It’s important to celebrate the individual victories while we fight for debt relief for everyone.

Debt Collective member Nadine Stewart has been battling the Department of Education for loan relief for almost two years. She recently celebrated a small but important win.

Nadine first filed borrower defense in June of 2017. Last month, however, Navient sent a monthly statement to Ms. Stewart telling her that they were once again going to collect on her fraudulent loans from Everest College.

When Nadine called the borrower defense hotline, she was told they could not place her account back into a forbearance status without her taking additional actions. This is a blatant violation of FSA policy which is clearly spelled out on the DOE’s website. Ridiculous! Navient was threatening to collect on a fraudulent debt that should have been placed in forbearance almost two years before.

But that is not even the whole story. Nadine had also had her wages garnished for this debt. You read that right: she had been defrauded, had asserted her legal right to borrower defense, and the Department of Education (instead of stopping collections as they are supposed to do) decided to take a portion of her wages.

This is the nightmare that is the Department of Education’s application of the borrower defense law.

The good news is that Nadine fought back and won.

With Nadine’s help, the Debt Collective wrote a letter to Congress’s Education and Labor committee outline Nadine’s case (among those of other Debt Collective members). Nadine received a refund of her garnished wages almost immediately after this letter was submitted.

The following week, Rep. Levin of MI referenced Nadine’s story during a Congressional hearing in which Education Sec. Betsy DeVos was grilled over her blatant disregard for borrowers’ rights.

The relevant clip is at 4 hours and 26 min

The next day, Nadine received a letter from Navient confirming that her loans would be placed in forbearance. She is finally safe from collections – for now.

Nadine is just one member of the Debt Collective who was able to win against the Department and Navient. Her win demonstrates the power of organizing. Imagine what student debtors could achieve if they came together to fight for the elimination of student debt?