On the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, an offshoot group announced that it has erased $3.8 million worth of private student loan debt.
The group, Strike Debt, said in a press release issued on Wednesday this week that its Rolling Jubilee initiative has purchased nearly $4 million in private student debt owed by former attendees of Everest College – an institution run by the massive for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges – in turn freeing those former students from a huge chunk of the burdensome loan bills.
“Jubilant Greetings!” the group wrote to 2,700 former Everest students. “We are writing to you with good news: We just got rid of some of your Everest College debt!”
“Everest College is committing widespread fraud,” the letter continues. “It targets lower-income students and students of color, offers low quality education and – with the help of the federal government – buries students under a lifetime of crushing debt, all to profit the one percent. No one should be forced to mortgage their future for an education.”
“You no longer owe the balance of this particular debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer under any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector or anyone else.”
This week’s announcement is only the latest from the non-profit organization to tout the results of a two-year-old initiative spawned from the Occupy movement that has previously erased more than $15 million in emergency room bills by purchasing debt from the companies tasked with collecting from debtors, then erasing it entirely using donated funds and never forcing the original debtor to pay them back.
“We buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it,” Strike Debt explains Rolling Jubilee on the group’s website. “We cannot buy specific individuals’ debt – instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will and collective refusal. All proceeds go directly to buying and canceling people’s debt.”
“This isn’t just a stunt or a spectacle,” Rolling Jubilee member Astra Taylor told NBC News this week.“This isn’t a long-term plan, either. The point is to touch people where they are, and try to create a political awareness out of that.”
Now in the heels of successful other campaigns waged in the three years since the Occupy movement took hold in Lower Manhattan and spread across the United States, Strike Debt says former students of Everest College are the latest to luck out through the Rolling Jubilee initiative, and with reason: in this week’s statement, the group says that students at Everest were “conned” and that Everest and other Corinthian schools “are now being closed or sold off to other predatory companies, leaving students with no good options.”
“Despite Corinthian’s dire financial straits, checkered past, and history of lying to and misleading vulnerable students, tens of thousands of people may still be liable for the loans they have incurred while playing by the rules and trying to get an education,” one Strike Debt member told CNN.
“Some debts are just, and others are unjust,” another organizer, Thomas Gokey, told National Public Radio. “Providing affordable, publicly financed, world-class education is a moral debt we are failing to pay.”
In the US, student loan debt now totals roughly $1.2 trillion – surpassing the amount owed through credit card debt – with the average graduate owing $26,600, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.