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

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 52 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 19 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 5 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.