Five years ago today, I wrote an essay called “Forgive Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy.” The message was simple, and clearly resonated with a great number of people: rather than tax cuts or more corporate welfare, why not try a new, bottom-up approach to stimulating the economy by forgiving student loan debt?
I later worked with former Representative Hansen Clarke (D-MI) in crafting H.R. 4170, “The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.” The petition I wrote in support of that legislation garnered over 1.2 million signatures.
During the course of my advocacy on the issue of student debt, I met some incredible activists and organizers who were doing excellent work on the issue of student debt. Wanting to expand the reach of my advocacy, I teamed up with Natalia Abrams, Kyle McCarthy and Aaron Calafato to form StudentDebtCrisis.org.
Together, we at StudentDebtCrisis.org have continued to advocate for the 40+ million Americans who collectively owe more than $1.2 Trillion of student loan debt. We’ve spoken at conferences, appeared in countless media reports, worked with Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) to reintroduce Hansen Clarke’s bill in the new Congress as H.R. 1330, “The Student Loan Fairness Act of 2013,” spearheaded the #OutWithStudentDebt video project, all while our Artistic Director, Aaron Calafato, tours the country with his one-man-show, FOR PROFIT. In short, for the past 5 years, we’ve been committed to doing all that we can to help solve the nation’s ever-growing student debt crisis.
Last night, President Obama gave his State of the Union Address and touched on this topic when he said:
We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle- class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt.
While StudentDebtCrisis.org agrees on the fundamental principles laid out in the president’s speech, we believe that so much more needs to be done to address the existing $1.2 Trillion in outstanding student loan debt. Because of these debts, more than 40 million Americans are not buying houses or cars, starting businesses or families, or otherwise contributing to rebuilding the economy. As it is, 7 million Americans are in default on their student loans and, for them, there’s simply no relief in sight.