Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

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Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:17 pm

I applied for a follow-on award for grad school, and was approved April 2019, until they rescinded it June 20, 2019. The reason? Because I can't start a degree on a Spring semester (Handbook, 6.5). I discussed it on a teleconference with SMART's Program Manager (Tylar Temple) who emphasized making a success story out of me going into the workforce, and I didn't appreciate them treating me like a number (let alone all of the other things that make me feel like LMI is running a daycare). So, I'm ready to pay back the 2 years I've gotten from them. I want to pursue my education and not be forced to choose between it and the career I'm building with the government.

Here's what I got from the SMART Operations Lead:

As of now the total amount of funds expended by the government under your award is $89,591.59. If you choose to withdraw, instructions for repaying funds expended will be provided to you at a later date. The total amount due is determined by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, so I cannot state what that is.


I could not obtain any other information. I know this quoted figure is missing the backcalculated interest as per Handbook 5.17. I see a lot of others on this forum have bitten the bullet, but I don't see much knowledge being spread about the actual consequences...so, my questions are:

  1. What is the interest like?
  2. How "promptly" do they expect repayment?
  3. What payment options are there? Like, would I have to get a loan taken out against my parents' house? My bank only even gives out loans up to $50K.
  4. Has anyone had success at reducing their obligated repayment or not having to pay it at all? If so, how?
  5. What happens with the SF if I pay it back while I'm at the internship? I'd be paying back the "cost of living" for working there. My SF understands my situation and supports the decision I'll make, but I don't want to renege effectively immediately and leave them with crappy unfinished work.
  6. Since SMART initiated my clearance, would they also request it be terminated?

If I find answers to these questions and take the leap of faith, I promise I'll come back with answers for those who need this in the future.

Oh, and don't hesitate to leave an answer if you can't address all of them. I'll take any partial answers to this that I can get. Thank you.

Edit: This document is a little hard to find, so I'll link it here: Volume 5, Chapter 28 of DoD 7000.14-R,
“Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation (FMR),” November 2012
.
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:10 am

I haven't withdrawn yet, but I do have a bit of knowledge to share now after asking the questions. This is from the SMART Operations Lead under LMI's administration (2019).

  1. "The interest to payments is assessed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I believe it is a fixed rate of 1% but am not completely sure as it is handled by them."
  2. "Regarding timeline, the SMART Program does a preliminary review before establishing debt to take into account all considerations before debt notification. There is no set timeline, however it is the goal to provide this notification as promptly as possible."
  3. No answer yet.
  4. "Every past participant who has debt established against them has the opportunity to apply for a review or waiver. The instructions to do so are enclosed with the debt notification letter."
  5. No answer yet.
  6. No answer yet.

Clearly, this isn't a lot of information to make an informed decision about taking on $90K in debt. It even says that they can drag their feet on sending me a bill with interest growing the whole time that they do (which I think has happened to other people posting on this forum). It does confirm what I read in the DoD policy referenced: there's an appeal process to have the debt "reconsidered".

I wonder if I have a chance at convincing the DoD/US Treasury that my scholarship organization was holding me back from pursuing my education?

I've omitted a bit of personal background into this situation, and I realize that this thread might not make much sense without context: because they wouldn't pay for my grad school, the contract has me working full time for them immediately instead. I want to stay a full-time student because that's what matters to me and I want the opportunities available in academia (research, conferences, etc.). Moreover, I'm not very set on working for the government; there are other careers that I would enjoy more and earn more in. My options with my SF are to be part-time, take a new student program, or pay SMART back. Those first two options are looking really bleak through SMART's stranglehold. They virtually won't let me go back to school full-time. The division head above my branch has talked about an exception for me to go on LWOP as a full-time employee under Phase 2 in SMART to allow me to do this, but this doesn't excuse SMART for forcing me out of grad school. I want others to know how poorly SMART has been treating me and others in the program; they shouldn't get to act like a scholarship organization and play with people's lives.
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby guest33 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:34 pm

JDetwiler wrote:I applied for a follow-on award for grad school, and was approved April 2019, until they rescinded it June 20, 2019. The reason? Because I can't start a degree on a Spring semester (Handbook, 6.5). I discussed it on a teleconference with SMART's Program Manager (Tylar Temple) who emphasized making a success story out of me going into the workforce, and I didn't appreciate them treating me like a number (let alone all of the other things that make me feel like LMI is running a daycare). So, I'm ready to pay back the 2 years I've gotten from them. I want to pursue my education and not be forced to choose between it and the career I'm building with the government.

Here's what I got from the SMART Operations Lead:

As of now the total amount of funds expended by the government under your award is $89,591.59. If you choose to withdraw, instructions for repaying funds expended will be provided to you at a later date. The total amount due is determined by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, so I cannot state what that is.


I could not obtain any other information. I know this quoted figure is missing the backcalculated interest as per Handbook 5.17. I see a lot of others on this forum have bitten the bullet, but I don't see much knowledge being spread about the actual consequences...so, my questions are:

  1. What is the interest like?
  2. How "promptly" do they expect repayment?
  3. What payment options are there? Like, would I have to get a loan taken out against my parents' house? My bank only even gives out loans up to $50K.
  4. Has anyone had success at reducing their obligated repayment or not having to pay it at all? If so, how?
  5. What happens with the SF if I pay it back while I'm at the internship? I'd be paying back the "cost of living" for working there. My SF understands my situation and supports the decision I'll make, but I don't want to renege effectively immediately and leave them with crappy unfinished work.
  6. Since SMART initiated my clearance, would they also request it be terminated?

If I find answers to these questions and take the leap of faith, I promise I'll come back with answers for those who need this in the future.

Oh, and don't hesitate to leave an answer if you can't address all of them. I'll take any partial answers to this that I can get. Thank you.

Edit: This document is a little hard to find, so I'll link it here: Volume 5, Chapter 28 of DoD 7000.14-R,
“Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation (FMR),” November 2012
.


6. If your clearance has gone through completely, I do not believe they can "cancel" or take it back. You will already have passed the required background checks.
guest33
 

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby Sisyphus » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:26 pm

Having been trying to help people deal with repayment and running a discord for it (I would advise you to come here to read what information we've compiled https://discord.gg/MEhgRRC) and having been on the receiving end of their more updated procedure I can confirm/give some more info:

1: Interest is 1% as mentioned.
2: "Promptly" means that once you get your debt letter, you're expected to pay them back EVERYTHING within 30 days or your debt gets transferred to DFAS to work out some form of payment plan.
3: That would honestly depend mostly on your own financial state so can't really offer too much there.
4: A couple (literally two) participants who were horribly screwed over by SMART had their debt waived. A good deal more are still waiting in initial debt review limbo before moving forward from there. Make no mistake this is a SLOW process unless you just roll over and pay.
5: Payback includes the amount that was spent on your tuition/fees, stipend and book funds (if those still exist). You are NOT expected to pay back internship stipends, orientation expenses, or health insurance payments.
6: As far as I'm aware, once you HAVE your clearance you've got it regardless of what SMART wants. If you were in the process of getting your clearance though, they can stop it and thus for future government employment someone else would have to get it rolling again.

Some extra info on the procedures; the process seems to have been much improved from the literally out of the blue shakedown notices sent to participants in default last Summer. Now it goes like this:

When SMART finally gets to you, which could be soon or could take a year (even though I was dismissed for taking too long in a PhD program that wouldn't let me escape last February, just a month before letters started going out, they didn't send me my first notice until 3 weeks ago), you'll receive a letter from the service branch you were indentured to that will include:
- Total amount owned (with a cursory spreadsheet you can double check)
- A page of debt collection procedure info if you just let it ride
- The process for requesting a review to dispute the validity of your debt with SMART (i.e. challenge that whatever circumstances you left with mean you should repay them instead of it being on them).
- The process for requesting a debt waiver should the review fail (waiver comes after review) based on the premise of "collection of the debt being against equity and good conscience or would be contrary to the bests interests of the United States."

...come to think of it I should just scan this shit and upload it for reference. I'll do that later.

I'll be honest though, from what you described in your reasons for not going to your SF...I don't see that flying and getting the debt validity waived in review. MAYBE you could make some case for a waiver IF you still wound up working for the DoD/providing value but...

Not to go into too much detail but the only two participants I'm aware of who had their debt dismissed were horribly mistreated at their SF and SMART totally shit the bed by doing nothing to remedy that and they had no real choice but to walk away from the program.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:13 pm

Sisyphus wrote:I'll be honest though, from what you described in your reasons for not going to your SF...I don't see that flying and getting the debt validity waived in review. MAYBE you could make some case for a waiver IF you still wound up working for the DoD/providing value but...


Thanks for the response. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up about getting the debt waived, but if SMART offers me no option to continue pursuing grad school full-time, I might choose to pay it back just to keep what matters to me. My education comes first; if I have to suffer the debt, let it be so...

I find your answer to (5) really interesting. The debt doesn't include internship support payments or health insurance allowances? That's somewhat substantial. I'll be sure to check out the Discord link you provided later. Thanks again.
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby Sisyphus » Tue Jul 16, 2019 3:51 am

Thanks for the response. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up about getting the debt waived, but if SMART offers me no option to continue pursuing grad school full-time, I might choose to pay it back just to keep what matters to me. My education comes first; if I have to suffer the debt, let it be so...


As someone who has been stuck in grad school for far too long, in a PhD where everything went wrong, and known many other grad students who were equally mired in a Sisyphean hell (my nom de guerre isn't random) with far too little to show for let me just state this:

Fuck grad school. And exponentially fuck grad school if you're considering a PhD.

Seriously, fuck grad school and the idea that it will make your life significantly better; you've been brainwashed by a predatory university system. You can always go back later if you know for a fact that getting more credentials will help you in your chosen profession, often even with employer sponsorship if it's that relevant to your field...

...but if it there is ANY doubt as to its utility then you will be jeopardizing years of your life, years of lost professional level wages, and years of lower quality of life along with likely diminished mental and physical health for potentially nothing. Going to graduate school just to "invest in yourself/education" is the WORST decision you could possibly make.

That would be under normal circumstances, but YOU would be incurring the financial wrath of the SMART program that will be probably be in the vicinity of 50k for every year you've been funded that you're going to be expected to pay back in a timely fashion lest the interest start to eat you alive.

Willfully going into debt with SMART just to go to grad school would be literally the worst reason bar none I have seen across dozens of participants who have run afoul of this godforsaken program. You NEED to think that through a lot more, because if you do make that choice I would bet all of what little money I have you will not get that debt waived and dealing with it (barring some rich benefactor) will make your life a living hell for the foreseeable future.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:56 pm

I get it that you had a crappy grad school experience. Grad school can be like that in labs that don't treat their students properly. It's all over Academia Stack Exchange. However, it's certainly not like that with every professor, so don't go prescribing to people that grad school is the worst thing in the world. As for its usefulness at advancing your career, a PhD isn't designed for that in the first place. You become an expert in a subfield to contribute to the set of knowledge that we have as a civilization.

I like my grad program. And SMART tried (and is still trying) to push me out of it. It's a bit of the prisoner's dilemma, and I was betrayed in the middle of the iterated game. I can only presume that it'll happen again, "Sisyphus".
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby SmartSurvivor » Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:19 am

JD, this may be tough to hear, but you don't have a leg to stand on in regards to getting your debt reduced or waived. SMART rescinding the follow on award was absolutely shitty but it isn't grounds for absolving you of your commitment. You will end up paying the full amount.

If you really want to go to grad school, consider some alternatives to just straight up taking on the debt. You could see if your SF has any internal programs for going to grad school. I don't work for Dahlgren, but I do work for one of the related Navy centers. We have a program that covers the cost of classes provided you get a B or better. I know many people getting their Masters that way. They also have sources of funding that let you work on independent research even as a new hire, and they strongly encourage using those programs as stepping stones to higher degrees. By using those programs, you could satisfy your commitment to SMART while still pursuing your degree.

Also, can you delay your graduation by 6th months? If the issue is just that you can't start in the spring semester, why not just drag your feet so you can start in the fall? Take some extra classes, request a leave of absence, do an extra senior thesis, etc. Anything that delays you so the follow on award can be honored seems like a better plan to take on mountains of debt. Hell, if you're planning to do grad school at the same place you did undergrad, you may be able to get your advisor to start you on grad work right away and just have the paperwork show you as an undergrad until the fall to satisfy SMART's ridiculous rules.
SmartSurvivor
 

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Fri Jul 19, 2019 12:37 pm

Thanks for taking an interest in my particular situation. I've actually considered a number of the options you just mentioned:

  1. The STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP) would be a "full-time position" on the SF-50 submitted to SMART that would allow me to be a full-time student while working at my SF and counting time towards the service commitment. Moreover, it doesn't obligate me to take money from them like SMART does, so I don't accrue more service time if I don't want to. The issue is a "not to exceed 3 years" clause on the SF-50 making me a temporary hire. SMART is currently reviewing that with their legal team to determine whether they'll allow it.
  2. My division head has unofficially offered the same thing as above by using LWOP if it falls through. It poses similar semantic issues that haven't been brought up with SMART yet and also internal issues with maintaining that agreement as management changes with time.
  3. All other student programs are not feasible/applicable for me---verified by my student program manager.
  4. I asked my grad advisor whether or not I'd be able to be considered as a grad student starting in the Fall, but I was told I'd have to have my bachelor's already (same as SMART told me).
  5. I actually haven't considered delaying my graduation, mostly because I didn't see that as an option. I feel like SMART has clauses somewhere about that in the handbook. I haven't considered leave of absence yet either.
  6. I could take classes part-time still (through my SF), which is the route that SMART would like me to take. It's rather undesirable to me, but that might have to be the option I pick if I don't pay it back.
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby SmartSurvivor » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:21 pm

Can you clarify if you're shooting for a Masters or PhD? Option 1 seems like a good deal if you want a Masters since most people can finish those in 2 years on average. I'd be hesitant about committing to a PhD in 3 years time though, as those range anywhere from 4 to 7 years depending on a whole host of outside factors.

I would definitely look further into the option of dragging your feet if the above fails. There are ways to request an extension to your current program and graduation date with smart. You just need a good excuse, such as maybe a required course isn't being offered, an important professor went on sabbatical, death of a close relative, health issue, etc, etc. I'm sure you can find some programmatic reason for the delay. If you request 6 months so you graduate in May then you can do an internship next summer and start grad school in the fall. You'd stay within Smart's silly rules and get what you want. The only hiccup would be getting smart to reinstate the follow on award. Since it's for a new year, it might require you to reapply. But since you're already in talks with your SF, I don't see that being much of a roadblock.

Also, you often don't need to be a grad student to take grad student courses or do research. Getting permission from the course instructor is often all you need. Smart does not need to be involved with that. In fact, I wouldn't mention it to them at all to avoid any unessecary hissy fits. While I wasn't a smart Scholar then, I did my BS and MS at the same university. They had no problem with me taking MS courses before I graduated with the BS degree as long as the instructor signed off on it. I bet if you explain the situation to the instructor they'd be more than willing to help since you've essentially finished undergrad and are just holding off graduation for silly administrative reasons.
SmartSurvivor
 

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby SmartSurvivor » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:49 pm

As a quick addendum and follow up to Sisyphus's points on grad school, I would strongly consider working on a masters before diving into a full blown phd program. Yes, not all Phds are mistreated or left in limbo, but getting a PhD is much less determistic than a bachelors even when things go well and infinitely more stressful than the BS is. One of the big reasons this board exists is because Smart has historically shown how incapable they are of understanding the nebulous nature of getting a phd. It's not as simple as take these courses and you'll be done in 4 years. Independent research doesn't follow a set schedule.

Pursuing a masters (with a thesis capstone, project or coursework masters' don't offer much insight here) lets you dip your toes into the world of academia without risking getting stuck in phd purgatory. This way if you find you don't like it, you can get out with the masters without wasting more years. If you do like it, the masters research is often a great jumping off point for phd research, and you often find people who do bs->ms->phd take the same amount of time as bs->phd do.
SmartSurvivor
 

Re: Payback in Phase 1 during summer internship

Postby JDetwiler » Mon Jul 29, 2019 3:01 pm

My closure has finally come on this matter. SMART is allowing the SSEP in order for me to continue into grad school full-time. They're drafting a Memorandum of Understanding between SMART and my SF to make this agreement.

So, I ultimately get to go back to school, not break my housing lease there, have less service time with SMART, keep some semblance of financial stability, and some other stuff. There's a couple downsides about jumping into another student program, but it's whatever. I'll have to stay with the government for the next few years anyway if I'm not paying it back.

I'm fairly sure I'll be leaving SMART and the government after everything is over in the next few years. My boring irrelevant job isn't worth it anymore. Just have to suck it up and finish the contract. Thanks for all the info, guys. I appreciated your feedback through all this.
I'm a Phase 1 recipient graduating Dec. 2019 with degrees in Computer Science and Math from Virginia Tech. I've been with SMART since May 2017, and Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).
JDetwiler
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm


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