How Average Student Loan Debt is Weighing Down Millions

Last month, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, cited student-loan debt as a reason for a decline in first-time home purchases among young people. Even more recently, Dr. G. Mustafa Mohatarem, the chief economist for General Motors, also pointed to overwhelming student loan debt as a major reason why millennials are not making car purchases.

Many of our political leaders continue to offer nothing but inaction and band-aids at a time when nearly 40 million Americans (about 13% of our country’s total population) are overwhelmed with more than $1 trillion in educational debt. This is all they have to offer when the default rate for these loans has tripled in the last decade. This indolence on the part of our elected officials is what motivated my partners and I to form StudentDebtCrisis.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamentally reforming the way in which higher education is paid for in America.

We recently partnered with more than a dozen amazing organizations to launch the #OutWithStudentDebt Video Project. Organizations involved include MoveOn.org, Backbone Campaign, AFT, Rebuild the Dream, Rock the Vote, Democracy for America, SEIU's Adjunct Action and For Profit U, Generational Alliance, OurTime.org, NY PIRG, Generation Progress, One Wisconsin NOW, Working Families Party, The League of Young Voters Education Fund, Contest.is, Young Invincibles, and USAction. We are asking the millions of student borrowers to “come out.” We want those affected by the weight of student loan debt to come out of the shadows and share these personal student debt stories. With #OutWithStudentDebt, we want to shed the stigma of shame and embarrassment that often comes along with the burden of student loan debt. This will also put faces on the ever-growing student debt crisis, raise public awareness, and hopefully pressure Congress to implement true comprehensive student loan reform.

To participate, it’s simple. Record a 1-2 minute video of yourself, state your name, how much student debt you have, what you would do with the extra money if you weren’t buried under student debt, and explain what your debt currently prohibits you from doing. Then, upload your video to YouTube and include the hashtag #OutWithStudentDebt in the title of the Youtube before this Tuesday, August 27. On our site we have also provided sample scripts, as well as a sample video from fellow SDC co-founder Aaron Calafato.

Over the past year, our nonprofit has collected countless stories of individuals affected by student debt and helped mobilize more than one million concerned citizens around this issue. Additionally, we have rallied support for legislation, such as HR 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, and more recently HR 1330, The Student Loan Fairness Act, which was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). Bass’ bill would benefit millions of Americans with student debt and would immediately stimulate the economy by providing a fair repayment plan, as well as increasing the disposable income of millions. Unlike programs such as Income Based Repayment (IBR) and Income Contingent Repayment (ICR), HR 1330 would also allow borrowers with private student loans, as well as the seven million Americans who have defaulted on their student loans, to enroll in the program.

Today, about 13% of the total US population is weighed down student debt. Of this, 41% of student borrowers are delinquent at some point within five years of graduating. The impact of millions of Americans being unable to pay has devastating consequences, both personally and to the economy. With so many people overwhelmed with student debt, it's vitally important that people come out of the shadows and share how student debt affects their everyday lives. Join the movement and submit your student debt story today at StudentDebtCrisis.org/outwithstudentdebt!