Session Type(s): Panel
Starts: Thursday, Jul. 14 9:00 AM (Central)
Ends: Thursday, Jul. 14 10:15 AM (Central)
Over 40 million people in the United States are carrying debt from student loans worth $1.3 trillion, an average of over $30,000 a borrower. Many people struggle with making their monthly payments, while others worry that this debt will follow them throughout their life. The weight of this debt is having a massive impact on our personal and national economic well-being: people are putting off buying a home or starting a family, and money that could be spent on goods and services that could spur economic growth are going to service the debt accrued while financing an increasingly expensive college education. Further, student debt has a more profound impact upon communities of color and women.
However, the federal government has free programs available that can help many student loan borrowers lower their monthly payments and, in some cases, even have their debt forgiven. Unfortunately, these programs are not well known, and can be somewhat confusing – opening a space for scammers who charge borrowers to enroll in free programs.
The AFT recognizes that these programs can help a huge number of our members and their families. To that end, we are rolling out Student Debt Clinics, developed with the help of Jobs with Justice, to provide people with the information they need to enroll in income-driven student loan repayment programs and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. More importantly, these clinics are a member engagement and community engagement opportunity, and the run-up and follow-through for the clinics provide multiple opportunities to have meaningful conversations with members, and their communities, and organize them to take action to help student loan borrowers and make a college education more affordable before another generation finds themselves in debt.
A Student Debt Clinic is 75-90 minute session where attendees are educated on the systemic injustices of our current student debt national crisis. Participants are encouraged to shift their perspectives and stop seeing student debt as just a personal issue, but rather a shared national crisis that will require collective action to address. Participants are then guided through enrolling in Income-Driven Repayment programs – where monthly payments can be as little as $0/mo – and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, two under-utilized programs that work in tandem to lower payments and forgive debt. Following a Q&A session on the programs, participants are presented an organizing ask.