fresh voices from the front lines of change







Many students graduating from universities face a mountain of student loans so large, escaping its shadow seems almost impossible. But a group of former students today is taking matters into their own hands.

With the help of Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that purchases student loan debt and then forgives it, 15 graduates of Corinthian College are starting a student debt strike by refusing to pay their loans.

The united former students, calling themselves the Corinthian 15, are fed up with colleges, especially for-profit colleges, that take advantage of students who are simply seeking an education. The strike is the first time a group has come together to collectively refuse to pay federal student loans. The goal is to get the Department of Education to cancel their debt, along with that of all other current and former Corinthian students, under the assertion that Corinthian defrauded them. They hope that many more rise up and join the fight.

Latonya Snuggs, a Cincinnati native, took out $40,000 in student loans to attend Everest College, a Corinthian institution. She hoped that a higher education would bring a better life to her and her infant son. Instead, she was left with crippling debt and a degree in criminal justice that employers would not even recognize.

For-profit colleges are some of the worst offenders when it comes to taking advantage of students who rely on loans. Corinthian Colleges Inc. has been investigated by state and federal authorities on multiple occasions for fraud, yet the Department of Education has come to its rescue, helping to find buyers to take over campuses and online operations.

Luke Herrine, a Rolling Jubilee team member, is calling on the Department of Education to “stop acting as a debt collector for a predatory lender, and start discharging the debt of these students. It is fully within its statutory powers to do so.”

This past July, Corinthian announced that it would have to close because its funds had been frozen while it was under investigation. Fearing a sharp rise in students eligible for loan refunds, the Department of Education struck a deal with Corinthian, monitoring the organization’s selling of campuses and other assets. Currently 56 of the 107 campuses have been purchased by ECMC, a debt collection company that has never run a school. Previously, ECMC was an Education Department contractor. The firm plans to keep the colleges open under the name Zenus.

The Rolling Jubilee also announced that it has abolished over $13 million of student loan debt, easing the lives of almost 10,000 people being crushed by unmanageable debt. Launched in November of 2012, the campaign purchases debt for pennies on the dollar on the secondary market, using money from a crowdfunding campaign that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, then erases it. The most recent purchase was from the same debt collector who wanted to get rid of the unpaid tuition receivables and sold it to Rolling Jubilee for $1. Since the campaign was launched, it has managed to eradicate over $30 million in education and medical debt, alleviating the endless struggle for thousands of Americans.

Another student, Nathan Hornes, is from Los Angeles and graduated Everest with a 3.9 grade point average and a degree in business management. Now in his mid-20s, he currently works two minimum-wage jobs and struggles to earn enough money to pay back his $78,000 worth of debt. “Why is the Department of Education supporting a scam for-profit school instead of students?” he asks.

But he remains hopeful: “If we all join together, imagine how much power we would have to end student debt for good.”

Sign the petition calling on President Obama and Congress to cancel all student debt.

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