Over 100 Sallie Mae employees enjoyed a five-day, all-expense paid trip to Hawaii in August amid a burgeoning student debt crisis.
According to an NBC Nightly News report, executives and members of the sales team were treated by their bosses to a stay at the Fairmont resort on Maui’s Wailea Beach in celebration of a record year of $5 billion in college loans lent to 374,000 borrowers.
While the lending firm did not pay for its employees' families to join, the report revealed some family members joined, regardless.
“We said, ‘Hey, look, Maui is a pretty nice spot,’” Sallie Mae CEO Ray Quinlan told NBC while at the Fairmont Hotel. “And so if you wanted to stay a few days or want to bring family, that’s up to you.”
“We’ve had good years, we’ve had bad years,” Quinlan added. “This is a sales get-together for all of our salespeople,” he continued, while claiming that Sallie Mae employees have been taking such trips since the company was established back in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, as Sallie Mae employees soaked up the Hawaiian sun, borrower Paige McDaniel told NBC that she eventually was forced to declare bankruptcy due to her inability to pay $1,500 per month for a $120,000 student loan she had taken out years ago to pay for a graduate school program.
“When I told them that, you know, I couldn’t afford that, could we make some payment arrangements, they essentially said, ‘So sorry, we’ll put a lien on your house and garnish your wages if you don’t make those payments,'” McDaniel said, adding that she had hired an attorney to sue Navient, a U.S. corporation who facilitate and collect student loan debts.
McDaniel now owes a total of $304,000 as interest accrued over the years.
“There’s no way anybody can ever dig themselves out from underneath that,” McDaniel told the network. “They just don’t see that there are families on the other side of this.”
Sallie Mae was quick to point out that 98 percent of its borrowers successfully pay off their loans, with less than 2 percent defaulting per year. A typical borrower pays off their loans in seven years, the lender said in a statement.
92 percent of the $1.6 trillion in nationwide student debt comes directly from federal student loans, while a mere 1.4 percent are from private loans from Sallie Mae, the lender reports.
"College should be more affordable, and student loan providers have an obligation to lend responsibly," the statement read. "That’s why we assess every applicant's financial situation, and if they haven't demonstrated their ability to handle the debt, we say no."
A FOX Business request for comment was not immediately returned by Sallie Mae.