Student Debt FAQ

"It's not like they told us it would be."

Why is student debt a problem? Can’t students just work their way through school?

The average student now leaves college with more than $25,000 in debt and enters a labor market where jobs are scarce and the average annual earnings of workers ages 25 to 34 with Bachelors degrees have fallen by 15% since 1990. Heavily indebted students must put off purchasing homes, starting families and opening new businesses in order to pay off student loans. This means student debt not only stops graduates from pursuing their life goals, but it also depresses the economy and thus keeps unemployed people out of badly needed jobs!

What caused the explosion in student indebtedness?

Long-term disinvestment in public higher education has placed the burden of funding college education on students and their families. Since 1980, state governments have cut their funding of higher education by forty per cent in real terms. Because household incomes have stagnated over the past two decades, students and their families have turned to student loans to cover the costs of higher education. Since 1990 these costs have skyrocketed, with tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities rising by 112.5 percent.

What happens if I default on my student debt?

Defaulting on student debt can have devastating financial consequences that last for decades. Student debt cannot be discharged through the standard bankruptcy process like most other forms of personal debt. Thus, student debt stays with you for life and even with your estate after you die! To collect on a defaulted student loan, private lenders and the federal government rely on a variety on invasive measures: wage garnishment (up to 15% of disposable pay), the interception of tax refunds, and withholding of future Social Security payments. Fear of default and draconian collection tactics forces many of the 37 million Americans with student debt to take low wage jobs to start immediately making payments. Crushing student debt combined with low-wage jobs means indebted students have little disposable income to spend, further depressing the economy.

What can we do about it?

Demand free higher education for all. College tuition is free in most other industrialized countries and there is no reason U.S. students should be subjected to years of crushing debt for a college degree. We need a social movement that can stand up to the powerful corporate interests who reap huge profits from the current system. Total annual public college and university tuition comes to $80 billion a year; our “defense” budget is $800 billion. This movement must demand meaningful but realistic policy reform that puts us on the course toward universal free higher education. President Obama’s Income Based Repayment Plan allows some students to discharge federally guaranteed debt incurred since 2007 by paying 10% of their discretionary income for 20 years. This is not good enough. Democratic Socialists of America’s Drop Debt! Campaign demands an additional presidential executive order that:

  • Expands the program to all student debtors
  • Allows student loans to be repaid at an annual rate of 10% of discretionary income over a maximum 10 years
  • Expands the program to cover all public and private loans

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

February 27, 2017
· 8 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Sean Monahan, Providence DSA and National Political Committee member, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Sean Monahan, sean.yds@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 02, 2017
· 28 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

What Is DSA? Training Call

March 07, 2017
· 66 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

March 07, 2017
· 41 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 20 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.