1TDay: Thousands Across the U.S. Rightly Protest Sallie Mae For Skyrocketing Student Debt

In the coming weeks many students will celebrate their college graduation. What we're not anticipating are the inevitable loan bills on our student debt. Averaging over $26,000, and with many students quickly slipping into default, new graduates need to look for jobs that can not only support themselves but are looking for jobs that can support them and their large student debt bills.

A September report by the Pew Research Center shows how 1 in 5 households will have some kind of student debt, a rate that has doubled from just 9% 20 years ago. But this isn't an article about the student debt crisis, but rather what people have begun to do about it.

Last year, to commemorate student loans hitting over one trillion dollars in the United States, Strike Debt an Occupy Wall Street offshoot launched 1TDay to draw attention to this issue. The previous 1TDay included an event in Union Square where Reverend Billy Talen of the Church of Stop Shopping performed a mock celebration where debt letters were ceremoniously burned. The conversation itself was also shifting. People  began to have more frank conversations around their debt and how the debt crisis is not in fact students' fault. Even then connections were being made to the housing crisis and how banks gave out predatory loans with inflated interest rates not to help people buy homes, but to inflate their profits. When it comes to student debt, people are also beginning to notice the way race is playing the same role it did in the housing crisis.

We are beginning to see that there are people who should be held accountable for the student debt crisis. One example is Sallie Mae. This year, 1TDay has expanded nationally, with students across the nation coordinating actions targeting Sallie Mae.

Why target Sallie Mae and what did students hope to attain by participating? Isaiah Toney, a Student Labor Action Project coordinator and organizer with the week of action, says "Sallie Mae is the greatest profiteer of student loans in this country. While owning $162.5 billion in student debt, Sallie Mae's profit margins rise when students are forced to take out more loans. We must remove this incentive."

To coincide with the action students are taking, Jobs with Justice has put out a fact sheet on some of the reasons why the target is Sallie Mae. Points range from Sallie Mae having over 1,500 complaints against them filed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and they're still open to comments up until May 28), to the fact that they were one of the few large corporations to join the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2012. That's after public pressure drove corporations such as McDonald's away from the organization for supporting legislature such as the "Stand Your Ground" law.

This week of nationwide actions isn't an isolated event. It's going to take a lot to ensure that education becomes more accessible in the United States and that the stakeholders in the student debt crisis are held accountable and students are gearing up for it. May 30 is the shareholders meeting for Sallie Mae and students plan to be there. "We won’t let corporate powers run our schools and our communities. The 1% must be held accountable to letting us create the access to education and jobs that all people need."

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Biola Jeje

Biola Jeje currently serves as the Regional Organizer for New York Students Rising (NYSR), a statwide network of students dedicated to defending public higher eduction. She is a Political Science major at Brooklyn College graduating this spring where she has been a student organizer for the past 4 years. She has been published in Alternet, Salon, and the Nation, in addition to blogging regularly for NYSR. You can find Biola on twitter @biolajeje

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