Student debt relief program announced

via+facebook.com

via facebook.com

To help students face the ongoing debt crisis, activist group Strike Debt announced this morning that they have purchased $3.5 million worth of student debt through their Rolling Jubilee project.

Strike Debt also announced their new student debtors union, the Debt Collective, which will allow students and former students to take collective action against debt.

The debt erased by the Rolling Jubilee project belonged to 2,761 former students of the for-profit Corinthian College and was purchased for nearly three cents on the dollar from creditors who either had issued or purchased the students’ debt from private loans. Levia Welch, a former student at the Corinthian College school Everest College, said she was relieved when the Rolling Jubilee approached her to purchase her debt.

“They sent me a letter in the mail stating that Everest was [treating students unfairly],” Welch said. “And I think it was $696 that they paid off for me, so they said I don’t owe that at all. It’s pretty good.”

The goal of debt buys like these is not to effectively reduce the estimated $1.2 trillion of student debt, but to raise awareness of student debt and the secondary debt market, Social and Cultural Analysis professor and Strike Debt member Andrew Ross said.

“We use the publicity to shine a light on particular household debt, until now it’s been hospital debt, but now it’s student debt,” Ross said.

Strike Debt organizer Thomas Gokey said the Rolling Jubilee project may not do many more debt buys like this. The group’s efforts are shifting away from small scale debt buys and toward a model of collectivization, Gokey explained.

“We intentionally stopped raising new funds at the end of last year, because the Rolling Jubilee was always intended as a temporary project,” Gokey said. “We want to pour our tactics into things that can really make changes.”

Those tactics, Gokey said, include Strike Debt’s new Debt Collective. Gokey said the new project will provide students with resources to collectivize.

“It’s sort of similar to a workers union; workers were able to organize and take action not as a bunch of individuals, but as a group,” Gokey said. “In a lot of ways, the debtor’s union is a lot like the worker’s movement in the 21st century. Debt is a form of wage theft where they’re actually stealing your future wages.”

Ross added that the Debt Collective, which will set up chapters at schools around the country, will provide students with other resources, including legal counseling and IT support, to help them resolve their debt problems.

Ross said the project began this summer with the same students who were involved in this most recent debt buy, but added that the project’s larger roll out is still being planned.

While NYU students have not been involved in any of the Rolling Jubilee’s debt buys, Ross said the issue of student debt is important on NYU’s campus.

“Students debtors at NYU are still stigmatized,” Ross said. “But we hear more and more about students at NYU who are just leaving because they’re just not prepared to have their futures foreclosed. To overcome that isolation we need to be in contact with other people who share their predicament.”

Members of Student Labor Action Movement agreed, and said in a statement that the issue of student debt was one that can only be solved as a group.

“SLAM supports RJ’s Debt Collection campaign, and not just because our own Lucy Parks dropped out of NYU for these same financial reasons,” the statement read. “We support RJ because the problem they’re fighting is systemic and has or will affect all of us here in the 99 percent — it is only through everyone’s united struggle to combat the debts imposed on us that we will win a significant victory; and we will win.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, September 17 print edition. Email John at [email protected]