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Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!

Established Member

Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!

Hello everyone! I'm looking for your advice please as I need to solve my situation with an old tuition bill.


Long story as short as possible:

I attended a private university from 1990-1991. I withdrew in 1991 due to the fact that my parents divorced and couldn't afford the tuition any longer. The bill was in my father's name for several years, then he claimed bankruptcy. Several years later, I began receiving tuition bills from the university. When my father went into bankruptcy, the bill came to my name and SS#, the student. I didn't know what to do.


I was enrolled at a community college at the time and had a low paying part time job living with my mother who also did not have a great income. I spoke to the university over the phone several times, but the billing office was mean and not understanding. They left me alone for awhile, years passed. I then started receiving letters and bills from the university collection lawyer's office. They took me to court over this past tuition bill that I had no means to pay. I went to court on my own since I couldn't afford a lawyer. The judgement also contained a defaulted Perkins Loan which was about $1,500. The past tuition bill at the time was about $12,000.


After the court hearing I spoke w/ the university's attorney and told her I had no means to pay. She was somewhat sympathetic. I stayed in touch w/ her but still had no means to pay. They couldn't collect blood from a stone so they left me alone for a couple years. In 2006 I met w/ a lawyer to see if I could have him help me settle this bill with the school. I offered to pay $4,000 to settle the tuition. They accepted the $4,000 and they said I needed to pay the defaulted loan also, in payments. I wrote to my lawyer asking him how to make the payments, who to write the checks to as I was going to do 2x $2,000 as that's the only way I could afford to do it. I left him multiple voicemails and and emails and only heard back from him once awhile after telling me to stop worrying about the debt, as it was such a small amount of $ to a private school that they won't proceed any further. I thought this odd as they had accepted my offer but I never settled it since my lawyer fell off the face of the planet and had told me that. I was concerned but wasn't sure what else to do.


This year, 2012, I wanted to go back to school, having been laid off from my full time job this past May. I applied for Financial Aid and I was declined due to the defaulted Perkins loan which I honestly forgot all about. I still have current student loans that I'm paying on time, so I decided to make good on the Perkins and I consolidated it into my current student loans, bringing it to a postive status. Since the university was the OC, they were contacted to consolidate the loan, now at a price tag of over $6,000, due to all the collection and interest fees!!!! This triggered the university to contact their lawyer about my old tuition bill, which I had a feeling would happen. Their lawyer wrote me a letter with a copy of a ReWrite of execution on the tuition, whatever that is. I wrote back to the lawyer with another offer, a payment arrangement, all in a professional and business-like signed letter that was certified and sent to them. She wrote me back-the university did not accept my offer of $3,000. The tuition had been billed with an interest rate of 15% for all these years. The tuition bill including all fees is now up in the $33,000 range. I almost had a heart attack. They asked me to fill out a financial statement, along w/ send in the past 3 years of tax returns. I am now stuck because I don't feel they have the right to view all my tax returns, plus, my past 2 years of tax returns were with my husband, who has nothing to do w/ this debt and the lawyer has no right to his financial information. I have not written back to the lawyer yet as I need to figure out how to reply, given that they are asking for financial info. I told them I got laid off and was living off savings, not sure what they think I have stashed away to pay them, other than the $3,000 that I do have and am willing to pay them. I have not contacted a lawyer on my own because of not being able to afford one, but I feel I may need to.


Sorry this has been a longgg explanation but I could really and sincerely use any advice from all you professionals!!!!!!
I would be most grateful!!!! Thank you!

Message 1 of 5
Moderator Emeritus

Re: Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!

OP, to make it more pleasing to the eyes, I did a little bit of formatting, but didn't change any words. When typing future posts, don't hit "Enter" at the end of the line on your screen. What you see on your screen when you type it out will not appear and look the same when published. The text will automatically wrap around and that'll save the page breaks that were there before the edit.


I'll take a stab at the post.....disclaimer: I know zilch about SLs. But your post is more about tuition vs. a SL if I am understanding. From what I gather, the org. $12k turned into $33k due to the interest over the years. Because this is money owed the school vs. a lender, I think a statute of limitations applies on that debt. If it is from 2006 (or prior...unclear about that), then the SOL could have possibly have expired already. SOL is the time frame a creditor (namely the school) has to sue you for an unpaid debt. That SOL varies by state, but most don't have a SOL on written agreement debts beyond 6 years. Odds are, you are safe. Not it doesn't mean the debt goes away. They can collect forever if they wanted to, including preventing you from going to that school until the debt is paid. Definitely research your state's SOL on written debts. In some states, SOL can reset if you pay on a debt (the $12k) or make an acknowledgment or promise to pay on that debt. YMMV on your state. In other words, don't worry about being sued if SOL expired. Now if you wanted to go to that school, you'll have to settle with them first.

Message 2 of 5
Established Member

Re: Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!


Thank you so much for reformatting, I wasn't sure what had happened there.


Thank you for your reply, yes you are correct, it was Tuition not a Student Loan. There was a defaulted SL but I consolidated that already.


The SOL in Maine is 7 years from what I understand. The outstanding debt is from 1991. The original lawyer's letter/communication was from May 2002 in the form of court papers delivered to my house. Following that was a Motion for Summary Judgement sent to me in Nov. 2002, which was followed by the court hearing in Jan. 2003. I went to court and made a payment agreement w/ them for the Perkins loan amount. I became unemployed and couldn't make the payments any longer. I did notifiy them of this. I talked to a family member to borrow $4,000 to finally settle the tuition with them, and they said no, but they would apply money to the loan to pay it off, then apply the remaining to the tuition, but fully expecting the tuition payment in full (which at this time was $24k). This was now 2006 and when I got my lawyer, who shortly thereafter was nowhere to be found. 


At this point, I just really want to settle this, get it out of my head, and move on. It's all I think about because, of course, their letters are so mean and sometimes threatening! I'm not applying to go back to school there, thank goodness, I'm hoping to go elsewhere. But I'm just looking for "the right thing to do" right now since I don't want to receive collection letters anymore. I don't just want to ignore the last letter I received last week. Just not sure what to do. What's the best way to go about this so I can finally move on with my life!? I'm a little worried about being sued again, but how many times can they take me to court, spending all that $$$, knowing they won't get it?


Thank you for your advice, what is my next step?



Message 3 of 5
Established Contributor

Re: Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!

You've got 2 problems here:


1 - as you have already discovered, with a defaulted federal loan you do not qualify for any other federal financial aid and most schools will not award any other financial aid... 


2 - the statue of limitations does not apply here.  per your post they were awarded a judgment in 2003.  In Main a judgment is valid for 20 years and can be renewed.. Thus this debt is likely never to go away and will continue to grow with interest charges.  Somewhere in the future when they figure out where you are employed they will most probably enact the judgment and start garnishing your wages.

Message 4 of 5
Established Member

Re: Need advice on old tuition bill please!!!

Thanks 203bravo for your response. Not the one I wanted to hear!! However, in your opinion, if I try and settle this again, do you have any idea what percentage of my bill that they will most likely settle for?? The bill is over 20 years old. Might they have written it off already as a loss? Thank you in advance.

Message 5 of 5