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When Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti's 23-year-old son was shot and killed in a yet unsolved murder, the last thing she expected was a letter from New Jersey's state-run student loan agency informing her that monthly payments would still be required. "Please accept our condolences on your loss," a letter from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority said, according to the Miami Herald. "After careful consideration of the information you provided, the authority has determined that your request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness. Monthly bill statements will continue to be sent to you."

DeOliveira-Longinetti has made 18 payments of $180 thus far, according to a lengthy report on the agency's practices by ProPublica and the New York Times. "We're not going to be poor because of this," she told the Times. "But every time I have to pay this thing, I think in my head, this is so unfair." DeOliveira-Longinetti has "about 92" payments to go on the loan that helped her son, Kevin, attend the University of Vermont.

New Jersey's state-run student loan program is described as "by far the largest" of its kind, with the total value of loans currently standing at $1.9 billion. The program has been a frequent target of criticism for its strict repayment options, particularly the fact that borrowers are not allowed to adjust their payments based on income. Furthermore, few relief measures are available for borrowers who find themselves in between jobs.

According to bankruptcy lawyer Daniel Frischberg, there's a very simple explanation for what's going on in Jersey. "It's state-sanctioned loan-sharking," Frischberg said. "The New Jersey program is set up so that you fail." As noted by Raw Story, New Jersey has ignored the methods of states like Massachusetts, where such a debt would be canceled upon death or disability, choosing instead to attempt to convince borrowers to purchase life insurance.

Though "state-sanctioned loan-sharking" isn't present in every state, the growing student debt crisis is indeed a nationwide issue. As revealed in a Forbes report in February, a "significant portion" of the nation's $1.3 trillion in student debt stems from tuition inflation spurred by a "flood of student loan money" in recent years.