By Nick Martin
The New Republic
I left college $25,000 in debt, a fact I’m reminded of every month when an email from Great Lakes Borrowers Services informs me that “Your Automatic Payment Will Be Made Soon.” But relative to most American graduates, I got off easy: The average amount borrowed by an undergraduate in the most recent school year was $29,000, and the national debt burden comes in at a staggering $1.6 trillion, a number that feels impossible to fathom on its own. It’s higher than the nationwide total of credit card debt or car loans and second only to mortgages.
For the millions of former students struggling to make their monthly payments, debt was sold to us as the cost of a better life. And its repayment, we would later learn, was the cost of any kind of life at all. I don’t even really read the emails from my creditors anymore, since I know that the money is scheduled to come straight out of my account. My debt feels permanent in this way, unmovable.
But what if it actually wasn’t? What if we, along with millions of others, just stopped paying? The Debt Collective, part of a debt-cancellation movement born out of Occupy Wall Street, wants you to at least consider the possibility. “The power of ordinary people in the grassroots is something that I just think is undeniable,” Ann Larson, one of the co-founders of the Collective, told The New Republic. “What else could be achieved if we work together and collectivized? That’s really to me the lesson here, that big things can happen.”