How Activists Are Moving the Dial on Student Loan Debt

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      The Debt Collective is the most recent iteration of a few grassroots initiatives aimed at tackling debt. The Strike Debt network attempted to mobilize borrowers to go into default to mandate student loan reform, while Rolling Jubilee used $701,317 in donations to buy up and cancel $31,982,455 of student loan debt. Today the organization is centered around canceling all types of debts by collectivizing the interests of individual borrowers.

      “Creditor, collection, and loan agencies are incredibly organized in their interests but people in debt do not have any type of institutional backing,” Larson said. “Debtors need a membership-based foundation, organization, and institution that they participate in a very real way to advocate for their interests and provide them with relief at the same time.”

      Protections for student loan borrowers — especially in terms of private student loans — are nearly non-existent. Borrowers must deal with unclear lending requirements and shady repayment practices. The nation’s largest student loan lender, for example, deceived borrowers on the terms of their repayment, resulting in illegal increases in principal balance by allocating payments to the interest rather than the principal loan. Borrowers are fighting against an industry based on making money off their debt.

      The Obama administration made attempts to increase accountability to borrowers, including the creation of the Office for Students and Young Borrowers under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The office actively pursued enforceable punishment for loan services that intentionally disenfranchised borrowers, and sued CitiBank and Navient for defrauding borrowers. However, the Office was shut down in May 2018 by Mick Mulvaney, who was acting director of the CFPB at the time.

      Organizations like Student Debt Crisis are rooted in creating immediate relief specifically for student loan borrowers. They educate borrowers on how to minimize loans, provide a digital community for those struggling with repayment and work on state-level policies across the country to either partially or completely cancel student loan debt.

      Cody Hounanian, the program director at Student Debt Crisis, said that progressive student loan reform requires taking a holistic approach to the impacts of student debt — including looking at existing inequality that determines who’s most affected.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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