Advice from an Elder on Student Loan Debt Strike

And see this.

Four Reasons Young Americans Should Burn Their Student Loan Papers

March 2, 2015

by Paul Buchheit



‘Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it’s a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.’ (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

‘Hell No, We Won’t Go’ — 1967

‘No Way, We Won’t Pay’ — 2015

Fifty years ago students burned their draft cards to protest an immoral war against the people of Vietnam. Today it’s a different kind of war, immoral in another way, waged against young Americans of approximately the same age, and threatening them in a manner that endangers not their lives but their livelihoods.

There are at least four good reasons why America’s young adults— and their parents—should take up the fight against financial firms who are holding high-interest student loans that total more than the nation’s credit card debt, and more than the total income of the poorer half of America.

1. The Protest Has Already Begun

Fifteen former students of for-profit Corinthian Colleges recently announced a debt strike against the company and its predatory loan practices. The 15 students, members of the Debt Collective initiative of debt abolisher Rolling Jubilee, have refused to repay their loans. Corinthian, which has been accused of false marketing, grade tampering, and recruitment improprieties, and which has 60 percent of its students default on loans, was sued in 2013 for employing a “predatory scheme” to recruit students.

2. For-Profit Colleges Use Taxpayer Money for False Marketing to Get MORE Taxpayer Money

Corinthian isn’t the only loan predator. Of 15 for-profit colleges investigated by the Government Accountability Office, 13 were found guilty of deceptive marketing, with false job and salary guarantees. The 15 companies got a stunning 86 percent of their funding from the public, in the form of student loans and grants.

Worse yet, a Senate report found that they spend about a quarter of their revenue on marketing, and take 20 percent in profits, while spending only about 17 percent on instruction.

After all that, only 22 percent of students get a degree after six years.

3. Traditional Colleges Aren’t Much Better: Students are Treated Like Products for Profit-Makers

Since the 1980s, the number of administrators at private universities has doubled.

To pay all the administrators, tenure-track teachers have been eliminated, and underpaid part-timers have taken their places. Adjunct and student teachers, who made up about 22 percent of instructional staff in 1969, now make up an estimated 76 percent of instructional staff in higher education, with a median wage in 2010 of about $2,700 per course, and with little or no benefits.

To further pay for all the administrators, and to pay for amenities like recreations centers, dining halls, and athletics, tuition has been steadily increasing, to twelve times its cost in 1978.

4. College Graduates Have Been Cheated out of Good Jobs

The unemployment rate may be going down, but the available jobs are well below the skill levels of college-trained adults. According to the New York Federal Reserve, 44 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed, holding jobs that are normally held by high school graduates.

College graduates have not recovered from the recession. They took a 19 percent pay cut in the two years after the recession, and by 2013 they were part of the only age group with lower average wages in early 2013 than in 2000. As recently as July of 2014 the Federal Reserve of San Francisco wrote that recent college graduates “were and continue to be hit hard.”

Progressive Unity

Progressives have no shortage of important causes, but an attack on predatory student loan policies could be a unifying force for us, particularly if the power of social networking is employed.

An Apple executive said, “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.” But almost the entirety of corporate profits are being spent on stock buybacks to enrich executives and shareholders, rather than on job training.

The proposal for an America Permanent Fund of $10,000 per household, based on the corporate debt to society for public research, is about the same, in numbers, as the $1.16 trillion of student loan debt. A protest against student loans is a good way to earn the first dividend.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

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3 Responses to Advice from an Elder on Student Loan Debt Strike

  1. Perhaps I’m being simple-minded. I’m sure I am. I don’t approve of or agree with high interest rates on student loans. However, students must sometimes secure loans to help pay for college. That loan has to be paid back. I am really proud of my daughter. She will have her college loan paid off in a year. I’m not understanding quite all the story on this. It’s illogical to take on a loan and not pay it back. I don’t understand why students want to reneg on their loans, and people are protesting their having to pay their loans back. Again, I protest high interest rates, for sure. I just believe a loan has to be paid back. Peace,Mari

    • Mari, I can relate to where you are coming from, and certainly, small loans do need to be paid back. But so many of these student loans basically guarantee lifelong servitude. What kid 18 years old understands what she or he is getting into when they take out these easy-to-get loans? Plus, all the points the professor brings up. You might look into how fiat “money” is created — through loans! What we call “money” is called into existence that way — and then must be “paid back,” with interest! Money is a very weird human invention, and now, in the end-stage of capitalism, the flow of money is spiralling ever faster towards the very tiny minority who live at the top of the pyramid. As long as these kids “believe in” their loans, they will feel stifled, unable to express their full beings into the world. And when that’s the case, there goes the future of the human race!

  2. Mari Braveheart-Dances says:

    At the very least, it’s good that there is momentum for change. There needs to be change in the student loan system, for sure. I hope there will be positive change in the future.

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