Ella Edwards, the mother of a college student who died in 2009 unexpectedly launched an online petition asking the loan company First Marblehead Corp to forgive a $10,000 student loan taken out by her son Jermaine Edwards, that she could not afford to repay.
Edwards, a 61-year-old who works part-time as a seamstress, had gained over 195,000 signatures for her online petition on the website Change.org. Her son was only 24-years-old when he died of “natural causes” on March 9, 2009. He was studying music production.
She joined Jacque Reid for her segment “Inside her Story” this morning on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to explain her story and plea with the loan company to forgive her loans.
After a tearful plea on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, radio legend Tom Joyner told Ms. Edwards he would pay off her son’s loan that currently totals $10,849.14.
Read the full transcript of the interview below:
JACQUE REID: Good morning, Tom, now last Friday I brought you the story of Ella Edwards and her petition to get a private loan company to forgive her son’s student loan after her son died suddenly. It is a $10,000 dollar debt that Ms. Edwards just can’t afford. At 61 she retired early due to illness and Tom, now she had to go back to work as a seamstress on a line at a car company just to pay off this debt. Now this is a private loan company that won’t forgive the debt. By the way her son also had two federal loans that were forgiven when Ms. Edwards showed them his death certificate. Now Tom, we tried to have her on last Friday, but she wasn’t able to take a break from work in time for us to confirm her on as a guest, but she is here today to talk to us because we really wanted our audience to hear from Ms. Edwards. Good morning, Ms. Edwards.
ELLA EDWARDS: Good morning.
JACQUE REID: Now, let me clear this up, because there is some confusion. Exactly your son is Jermaine Edwards. Now there’s been no cause of death. Do we know now what caused him to die?
ELLA EDWARDS: They’re still saying he died of natural causes.
JACQUE REID: Had he been ill or anything?
ELLA EDWARDS: No, he wasn’t ill or anything. He had work that day, been working, never was sick. And he had work, he got off work and went home, you know, went to bed and didn’t get up.
JACQUE REID: Now you and your son …
TOM JOYNER: No autopsy?
ELLA EDWARDS: The autopsy ruled it as natural causes.
JACQUE REID: At what age?
ELLA EDWARDS: He was 24.
JACQUE REID: Now I know this has been difficult for you. Jermaine starting paying on this particular loan about eight or nine years ago and you continue to pay on it since his death, but you say it’s just still above $10,000 dollars, you’re only able to pay a little bit at a time.
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah. Jermaine, when he took the loan out it was for $10,000 dollars. And he started paying on his loan I think in like early 2004. And today, and you know, we’ve been paying on it since 2004. And today the balance is $10,849.14.
JACQUE REID: Now why won’t, have you spoken with this company? Why won’t they forgive it?
ELLA EDWARDS: They said they just don’t forgive, you know, student loans. They don’t forgive loans like this. You know, whatever you find they say you got to pay.
JACQUE REID: So you had to come out of retirement and go back to work. How has that been for you?
ELLA EDWARDS: It is so hard, I’m telling you, I just don’t feel like working. I don’t feel like working, you know.
SYBIL WILKES: Well, you’ve been ill.
JACQUE REID: Well, you have challenges yourself.
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah, when my son passed away, I, you know, my whole world just fell apart.
JACQUE REID: And you’ve been very stressed, in fact Tom, she’s gone to a doctor and she’s on medication for her stress.
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah.
JACQUE REID: Ms. Edwards, one thing I wanted to clear up because you and I talked about this. You said that there was, you know, the community has followed your story and they’ve given feedback on it. And they want to know why you didn’t use the life insurance money that you had on your son to pay off his debt? And you wanted to explain that.
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah, I took a life insurance policy out on my son in 1986. And I, you know, took it out through my job. And the payment came out of payroll deductible. So from 1986 my payment was paid on time. And when my son passed March the 9th, 2009 the last payment for my policy came on March the 3rd, 2009. But when I got ready to file the claim for the policy, you know, to bury my son, and they denied the policy. They said he wasn’t eligible. So I didn’t get any life insurance money.
JACQUE REID: So you weren’t able to …
ELLA EDWARDS: MetLife Insurance didn’t pay me.
SYBIL WILKES: So you got no insurance money.
ELLA EDWARDS: No insurance money.
SYBIL WILKES: That you had been paying on for years?
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah, I’ve been paying on it since 1986.
SYBIL WILKES: And you’re responsible for his debt because you are a cosigner on this loan?
ELLA EDWARDS: Yes. Yes, you know, I was a cosigner on the federal loans as well.
JACQUE REID: But they forgave that.
ELLA EDWARDS: But the federal loans was forgiven.
SYBIL WILKES: Yeah. And so Jacque …
ELLA EDWARDS: And I don’t think, uh, you know, no one should have to pay for a loan like this that I can’t use or Jermaine can’t use. I feel that the federal loans were forgiven then the private loan could start, you know, the private loan, it could be …
SYBIL WILKES: Is the petition …
JACQUE REID: Yeah, it’s with Change.org. And what has given Ms. Edwards hope is that they collected almost 200,000 signatures, I’m sure they’ve gained more since we did this story on Friday, but Ms. Edwards, I mean, what do you think will happen once they take these signatures and turn them over to this company?
ELLA EDWARDS: I don’t know, I’m just hoping and praying to God that they forgive his loan and forgive other parents’ loans in the same situation as I am because a loan coming from this companies harassing you for payment, it’s very distressing, it’s very stressful.
JACQUE REID: Yeah. You say sometimes when you’re going to be late with a payment you call them and let them know, and they still call you?
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah, I call and say, if I’m going to be two, if I’m two days late I call them and tell them so they won’t call me, because the calls is so stressful. If I’m going to pay like, if my payment is due on Wednesday, if I call Wednesday and tell them I’m going to pay Friday, they’ll write that down and they’ll tell me the calls is going to continue until you pay. And they do. They continue to call you so, you know, you can’t work with them. So my thing is I want all the parents to know to please be careful on these private loans, because I mean it’s a nightmare that will come back and haunt you if you lose a child because, you know, losing a child it ain’t nothing to play with.
SYBIL WILKES: Now, I’m no Clark Howard, Jacque, but isn’t there something about if you write them and tell them to stop calling me, or you tell them to stop, they’re supposed to.
JACQUE REID: They are supposed to.
ELLA EDWARDS: They never stop. They don’t never stop. They don’t stop. And I’m 61 years old, so I don’t know the law.
JACQUE REID: Well, Ms. Edwards, didn’t you say someone reached out to you, there’s another family going through the same thing?
ELLA EDWARDS: Yeah, there’s another family. You know their son had a car accident, and they are with the same company, and you know, I’m pretty sure they’re going through the same thing because, you know, they didn’t forgive their loan either.
JACQUE REID: What’s the name of the company?
ELLA EDWARDS: The National Co-League Trust First Marblehead out of Boston, Massachusetts.
JACQUE REID: It’s National what, ma’am?
ELLA EDWARDS: National Co-League Trust.
JACQUE REID: Yeah, all of that information, the name of the company and the details of Ms. Edwards’ story is at Change.org. Again, that’s the organization that’s helping her with this petition. And we don’t know what’s going to happen once they get all those signatures. You know, Tom, one of the main reasons …
TOM JOYNER: Nothing. Nothing’s going to happen.
JACQUE REID: … Ms. Edwards wanted to do this.
ELLA EDWARDS: Nothing happened yet.
JACQUE REID: You don’t think so?
Tom JOYNER: No. Nothing’s going to happen.
ELLA EDWARDS: But I would like to say, I would like to thank all the people for supporting my petition. And I also would like to ask the National Co-League Trust of First Marblehead to please forgive my student loan so I can find my baby, I need to find my baby.
JACQUE REID: Oh, Ms. Edwards, we are …
TOM JOYNER: Ms. Edwards, Ms. Edwards.
ELLA EDWARDS: Yes?
TOM JOYNER: Would you stay on the line and give me your account number and all the information, and I’ll pay the $10,800 dollars.
ELLA EDWARDS: Are you serious?
TOM JOYNER: Yes, I’m serious.
ELLA EDWARDS: Oh, I can’t believe this. Thank you so much!
JACQUE REID: So you can rest your soul.
ELLA EDWARDS: I just need to find my baby, I just need to find my baby, I can’t live without my baby.
JACQUE REID: It’s okay, Ms. Edwards. It’s okay. It’s okay.
ELLA EDWARDS: Thank you so much.
TOM JOYNER: Jacque?
JACQUE REID: Yes, Tom?
TOM JOYNER: Get me all her information.
JACQUE REID: I have all of her information.
ELLA EDWARDS: I want to thank all the people that supported my petition. I thank you all so much.
JACQUE REID: Thank you, and Tom, you know, one of the main reasons she wanted to do this was to let other parents know that to be careful of this. You know, she didn’t want any money, she wanted them to forgive it so she could just go on with her life.
TOM JOYNER: And they should.
JACQUE REID: Yeah.
TOM JOYNER: And they should.
JACQUE REID: Shame on them.
SYBIL WILKES: God bless you, ma’am.
TOM JOYNER: Stay on the line.
ELLA EDWARDS: They ain’t good, I’m telling you. And I didn’t know, you know, I didn’t know they was different until my son had passed away. And I’m sure other parents out there don’t know either. And I want these parents to know these private loans ain’t nothing to play with. It will come back. If you lose a child they will drive you crazy. They have been times, I mean, all I can do is fight off not taking my own life, because this stress.
TOM JOYNER: Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it. Don’t stress. Don’t go to work today, I’ll take care of it, okay?
ELLA EDWARDS: Okay, thank you so much.
TOM JOYNER: Yes, ma’am.
ELLA EDWARDS: And I thank everybody out there for listening to my story and supporting my petition.
TOM JOYNER: It’s all right.
ELLA EDWARDS: There are so many parents out there like I am. And there are going to continue to be more.