Tamara Parvizi, age 51, sought to discharge $653,743 in student-loan debt in a Massachusetts bankruptcy court. That’s a lot of debt–just shy of two-thirds of a million dollars.
For 15 years, Parvizi took out student loans to pursue several degrees, and she became fluent in at least four languages. Nevertheless, Parvizi never made a single payment on her student debt other than offsets to her income tax refunds–which totaled less than $4,000 (Parvizi v. U.S Department of Education, slip opinion, p. 4).
Parvizi obtained a bachelor’s degree from Clark University in 1990. In 1991, she enrolled in medical school at the University of Rochester but dropped out in 1995 without getting a degree.
Later, Parvizi enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, where she received a master’s degree in public health.
In 2006, Parvizi made a second attempt to become a medical doctor. She enrolled at St. George’s University School of Medicine, located on the Caribbean island of Grenada. This time, she completed the program and graduated with a medical degree in 2012.
After obtaining her M.D. degree, Parvizi began a psychiatric residency at the University of Vermont, which she did not complete. She left the residency program in 2013 after being put on a remediation plan (p. 2).
At the time of her adversary proceeding, Parvizi owed $478,000 in unpaid principal on her student loans plus $175,000 in interest. Her annual income was less than $29,000.
The Department of Education opposed Parvezi’s request for bankruptcy relief. DOE argued that Parvezi was qualified for REPAYE, an income-based repayment program that would only require her to pay $80 a month over 25 years (based on her current income).
But Parvizi was unwilling to sign up for REPAYE, testifying that she had “suffered enough.” She placed most of the blame for her financial predicament on personnel at the University of Vermont. “[W]hy should I pay for the mistakes of a residency program director whose behavior cost me my life, my pursuit of happiness,” she asked (p. 4).
Based on Parvizi’s eligibility for the REPAYE plan, Judge Elizabeth Katz denied Parvizi’s request to discharge her student loans. However, the judge ruled that she would discharge any student-loan debt Parvizi might owe after completing a REPAYE plan.
Who would quarrel with Judge Katz’s decision? It is hard to sympathize with a woman who ran up almost half a million dollars in student debt to get a master’s degree and a medical degree and who never made a single voluntary payment on her student loans.
On the other hand, I have great sympathy for Dr. Tamara, who undoubtedly did her best to get an education and build a satisfying career. And she may well have been right when she argued that her financial predicament was mainly due to people who made unfair decisions while in her residency program.
Nevertheless, Tamara Parvizi’s case demonstrates the insanity of the federal student loan program. Why is the federal government loaning money to a person who left one medical school program without a degree and then pursued another program at a medical school outside the United States?
And what is the point of requiring Dr. Parvizi to pay $80 a month for 25 years while interest on her student loans continues to accrue–probably at a rate of at least $30,000 a year?
This is crazy. And who benefits from all the money the federal government loaned Tamara Parvizi? I suspect the primary beneficiaries are the people who own a private medical school in the Caribbean.
Parvizi v. U.S. Department of Education, Adversary Proceeding No. 19-3003 (Bankr. D. Mass. May 13, 2021).