Defaulting on the NC Teaching Fellows scholarship has drastic consequences

To the editor:

My name is Kendra Wiggins and I am a former NC Teaching fellow recipient. I really appreciate this article highlighting some of the pitfalls of the program. One other pitfall I would like to share from my perspective is that of the debilitating and unlawful clauses of the promissory note that optimistic yet naive teens are made to sign at the vulnerable age of 18. I liken it to getting a credit card at 18 not fully knowing the consequences of that decision. They have no way of knowing the full scope of life鈥檚 turns and if their future plans will pan out. This is what happened in my case and I鈥檓 sure what happened in many other cases of those who are in default status of this scholarship.

I received the NC Teaching Fellows scholarship back in 2004 with hopes of becoming a high school teacher. Since I did the program at UNC I had to get a Masters of Arts in teaching to fulfill the terms of my scholarship. Well, life took a drastic yet beautiful turn when I became pregnant with my son my junior year of undergrad. All my plans changed.

After graduation, I did not go straight into grad school and worked at a bank instead so I could support my family. As time went on I tried getting into graduate school but it never panned out. I eventually went into education as a lateral entry teacher which is not accepted for terms of paying back the scholarship money.

I understood all these terms yet there was nothing I could do in my circumstance. I remained and still remain in education for the past 10 years, all in title 1 funded school. I taught middle school for six years and now work as a school counselor for the past four years. My check has been garnished by 10% since I started working in the school system. What once was a source of hope and relief to afford a poverty stricken teenager a quality education has become a source of stress and a burden.

I know not all cases are the same but for those like me whose life took an unexpected turn but still found their way to the calling of education should not be punished by wage garnishments. My payoff amount increases daily as the interest accrues daily. I have been receiving garnishments for 10 years and those thousands of dollars have only gone to the interest of the loan. The payback amount has gone from 26,000 to 31,000 with no end in sight. Each wage garnishment of about $425 (more than my car note) goes to the interest. So no I do not believe this program is worth the money, stress or headache for those high hook graduates hopeful for their future yet lacking in wisdom and foresight like me. Thank you for writing this article and for taking the time to read this letter.

Kendra Wiggins
Durham, NC