In a stunning example of how a political movement can actually change lives, the Strike Debt project has raised over $100 thousand to purchase and abolish student loans for a group of recent grads with a punishing amount of debt. They hope to turn this into a national movement.
Strike Debt, which grew out of the Occupy Wall St. movement, created the Rolling Jubilee Fund to pay off student loans. Their latest beneficiaries are 2,700 students from Everest College, whose parent institution is currently being sued for predatory loan practices. The students, who collectively had nearly $4 million in debt, are now debt-free.
Over at the Guardian, Jana Kasperkevic has the backstory:
Strike Debt is also launching a new initiative – The Debt Collective, which will "create a platform for organization, advocacy and resistance by debtors".
"Solutions are not going to happen if we just wait for Congress to do it," says Thomas Gokey, one of the organizers "We need a social movement. We need debtors to unite to exert collective power."
The portfolio was valued at – to be exact – $3,856,866.11 in student debt.
In the vast scheme of things, $3.8m is barely a drop in the bucket as the student debt owed by Americans has now surpassed $1tn.
The gesture, however, is meant to be symbolic as it proves that debt can be conquered – and at a discount. Rolling Jubilee bought the $3.8m worth of student loans for a total of $106,709.48 in cash. That's about 3¢ for $1 of student debt.
"The Rolling Jubilee doesn't actually solve the problem. The Rolling Jubilee is a tactic and a valuable one because it exposes how debt operates," says Gokey.
"It punches a hole through the morality of debt, through this idea that you owe X amount of dollars that the 1% says you owe. In reality, that debt is worth significantly less. The 1% is selling it to each other at bargain-based prices. You don't actually owe that."
The 1% in this scenario are the companies issuing private student loans and the debt buyers, who often purchase student loan portfolios like the one purchased by the Rolling Jubilee.
Strike Debt is hoping to inspire young people with similar debts to form a union-like coalition to negotiate for better student loan rates. With student loan debt growing to a trillion-dollar industry in the U.S., this is a huge concern — especially because a college degree is practically a requirement for any middle-class job.
In addition, when students graduate already owing a huge debt to lending institutions, their career choices are severely limited. They have no time to decide what they want to do, or to try out a few different job options — they have to go to work right away, or risk defaulting. These student loans tie people's fates into those of banks before they are old enough to fully understand what they're signing up for.
Put another way, young people are forced to choose between education and a life of debt. That is no way to build a future.
Strike Debt is hoping to change all that. Find out more on their website.