All told, in 2017, the average American household had 828 percent more student debt than in 1999

But by late 2011, that balance had ballooned to $550 billion. By 2016, the number had reached $1.3 trillion, with delinquency disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx students .

The warning signs were all there: stagnating wages , skyrocketing university tuition and cuts to state funding , imbalanced increases in the average cost of living , a burst in for-profit colleges. But rather than become curious about young people’s spiraling debt, the older generations-the ones sitting in Congress, on university boards of trustees, and behind the desk on the nightly news-sneered when the initial complaints were raised. After all, they had paid their way, gotten their degrees, and stepped happily into the workforce. Why were millennials express payday loans Belen, NM struggling so much to follow in their footsteps? And so the following line rapidly became embedded in the minds of teenagers across the nation: If you want a better life, a chance at climbing the ladder, then you have no choice but to bite the bullet and sign on the dotted line.

What’s most remarkable about the student debt crisis is how quickly America normalized it, even as the numbers ballooned: As The Atlantic reported in 2011, during the first quarter of 1999, just $90 billion in student loans were outstanding

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The system has been deeply broken-or actually functioning as Reagan intended-for decades. Yet it is only recently that the astronomical rise in student debt is beginning to be treated by establishment political and media figures as the nationwide financial crisis that it is. The issue has become a core part of Democratic presidential platforms and coverage from mainstream news outlets.

But this new awareness did not just spring into existence, and it wasn’t just the Debt Collective building this movement, either. This work has long been sustained by those inside the system, both as students and as professors and administrators. Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, worked in enrollment at two for-profit colleges before quitting over what she described as discriminatory targeting practices by the schools. She told NPR that her wake-up call came when she saw relatively poor and low-income students deciding to take on both [federal] student loan debt and private student loan debt and inviting in their family members to cosign on additional loans.

It took years of public work by people like Cottom and organizing by grassroots operations and groups like the Debt Collective, Strike Debt, and the Collective-adjacent Rolling Jubilee to get average Americans to a place where they understood their debt as political. A shift to when people finally got fed up seeing the notification of payment emails stack up in their inboxes and collectively fumed, Enough with this bullshit.

The Debt Collective’s end goal is fairly simple: wipe out all student debt. But there is a larger purpose on this path to dissolving the trillion-dollar debt albatross. The debt strike is about building collective power and making the millions of indebted Americans feel less alone in their struggles against it. The Debt Collective is seeking people to stand in solidarity with the 250 strikers already politicizing their lack of payment. And they have a blueprint for how they think the strike can work, because it’s already worked before.

Just under half of those with student loans are already not making their payments, and many others are fed up with the monthly withdrawals that hardly make a dent in their principal, often paying off just the accrued interest

Corinthian Colleges was a company that owned a slew of for-profit higher education institutions across the nation. While it successfully marketed itself to over a hundred thousand students as a reasonable alternative to state schools, under the surface it was slimy, parasitic, and wholly emblematic of what the college system had become in the twenty-first century. As Reveal reported in 2016, at the peak of its power in 2010, Corinthian Colleges had more than 110,000 students, 105 campuses across the country and revenue of $1.7 billion, most of it in federal funds.

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