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A Debt Strike is Finally Happening! Rolling Jubilee Acts in Solidarity

debt collective

The “Corinthian 15” have fired the opening salvo in a nationwide movement to strike student debt

Want to help? Click here to donate to support the strikers

Got student debt? Join the Debt Collective to help build a future strike

A group of courageous students, caught in the cruelest of debt traps, has decided they are done waiting for relief that will never come. Enough is enough. Today, the Corinthian 15 are going on debt strike.

Scammed from first to last by one of America’s most unscrupulous for-profit colleges and denied a rightful debt discharge by the Department of Education, they are saying “We Owe You Nothing.” In a gesture of solidarity with the strikers, the Rolling Jubilee has announced that it has erased more than $13 million of student debt owed by students of Everest College, a subsidiary of Corinthian.

With this strike, we announce the launch of the Debt Collective, a pilot debtors’ union that has opened a strike fund to collect donations. Leading intellectuals and artists have signed a statement in support of the strikers, and we intend for the Corinthian 15 to be the first in a nationwide movement against all forms of unjust debt.

Although the Corinthian 15 are fighting against some of the worst creditors in our predatory system, they are taking a stand for everyone who finds themselves saddled with decades of education debt. For-profits are only the most exploitative part of America’s debt-financed higher education system–public and private universities are little better. While the crushing burden of debt affects most students, those with the least resources are paying the highest price. We all have a moral obligation to stand with the Corinthian 15 and fight for quality, tuition-free education.

Student loan debt has tripled over the last decade, turning higher education into a pathway to poverty for all but the well-heeled. Everyone knows that huge chunks of U.S. student debt–more than $1.3 trillion and growing–cannot and never will be repaid. But, though nearly half of outstanding student debt is effectively in default or other forms of nonpayment, default on an individual basis is not leading to change; it is only causing misery, depression, and worse. Joining together to refuse repayment publicly and collectively is the only way to end the injustice of debt-financed education. The Corinthian 15 are the first to stand up and take collective action.

A strike is typically a last resort, when all other alternatives are exhausted. The Corinthian 15 certainly see it that way. State attorneys general, like California’s Kamala Harris, legislators, like Elizabeth Warren and Maxine Waters, and even government agencies, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, have all tried to secure justice for them. But the Department of Education has not listened. Instead of protecting the students, it has bailed out the college’s investors, acting like a debt collector for a predatory lender. The Corinthian 15 have concluded they have no alternative but to take debt relief for themselves, and that they are justified–legally and morally–in doing so. A debt strike is the only option left them.

Strikes are not without consequences. Workers risk losing their jobs, tenants who go on rent strikes can lose their housing, and debtors can be penalized for defaulting. By manipulating laws, the creditor class has stacked the odds heavily in their own favor. But labor and housing organizers fought against laws that protected the interests of employers and landlords and they won. Student debtors can win too.

There are many ways to strike, because student debtors have been offered many ways of self-managing, or drawing out, their predicament; deferment, forbearance, grace periods, income-based repayment. Those who are not ready to refuse repayment upfront can commit not to pay at the end of grace or forbearance periods. Those already in default or in a state of imminent default can follow the example of the Corinthian 15. Working with the Debt Collective, they can be supported legally, with defense to repayment claims, in order to protect their credit scores, their First Amendment rights, and their status with loan servicers.

Risks are always minimized when they are shared, and especially when the cause has public support. The plight of student debtors is now widely recognized as deeply unjust. In addition to support from the Debt Collective, student debt strikers are guaranteed sympathy and solidarity from all sectors of society–with the exception, of course, of a finance industry that contributes nothing of benefit to society.

The Corinthian 15′s debt strike is a historic milestone, and February 23rd will come to be remembered as the origin of a major 21st century movement. It’s up to us to choose whether we want to be an active participant, ally, or supporter. There is a role for everyone. You are not a loan!

Want to help? Click here to donate to support the strikers

Are you a Sallie Mae or Navient borrower? Click here to help build a future strike


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