Feeding off of the momentum of the Occupy Wall Street campaign, there’s a new movement afoot called the Occupy Student Debt campaign. Its objective is to protest the rising cost of student loans for higher education, and the massive debt that students accrue during college. Protestors are vowing to deliberately default on their student loan debts to send a message that the system has to change.
As background, here’s what the Occupy Student Debt Campaign website says on its homepage:
Welcome to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign. This campaign is a response to the student debt crisis and the dependency of U.S. higher education on debt-financing from the people it is supposed to serve. There is no justice in a system that openly invites profiteering on the part of lenders. Education is a right and a public good, and it should be properly funded as such.
There are three Pledges on the above menu. You may sign more than one.
The Debtors’ Pledge of Refusal is a public act of empowerment for those who have been rendered powerless by the loan system. Currently student loan debtors suffer the consequences of both debt and default in personal isolation. The Pledge is a cooperative action, undertaken in the belief that it can and will lead to sweeping reforms in the funding of higher education.
After a million people debtors have signed the Debtors’ Pledge, all of them are expected to default on their student loan debt. The problem with this notion is that regardless of how many people sign the pledge, there’s actually nothing that obligates the pledgers to follow through.
Honestly, I think this is a shameful campaign. Only the most idealistic and (forgive me) gullible student loan debtors will knowingly default on their debt in protest. The people who talked a big game but are more attuned to the consequences of their actions will walk away without penalty, but some people will be hugely penalized for participating in this protest. They’ll have damaged credit, garnished wages, in some cases even reduced job prospects… and all for a protest that never had any hope of making a substantial difference in the student loan system as we know it.
There may be some creative and meaningful solutions out there to address debtors’ student loan problems, but this isn’t one of them. Shame you on, Occupy Student Debt campaign. You’re going to really hurt some people who here get swept up by your foolish protest.