Is this the higher ed bubble popping? Or are just a bunch of whiny hipster layabouts shirking their duty to pay their debts? Why can’t it be both?
For two months, the Occupy protests have focused attention on student loan debt. Today, a group that started with the Occupy movement will propose a solution: stop paying.Under the campaign — which grew from the original Occupy Wall Street protest and is now known, inevitably, as Occupy Student Debt — borrowers will pledge to stop repaying their student loans once 1 million people vow to do so as well. The campaign is calling for several reforms of higher education, including free public colleges, no-interest loans, greater transparency at private and for-profit colleges and complete forgiveness of all existing student debt.Most experts, even those who agree with the movement’s aims, would describe these goals as unattainable. The theory behind the campaign is that if 1 million students refuse to pay, they would face minimal consequences due to safety in numbers. But many experts on student finance worry about the impact on anyone who stops paying: student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy; lenders — especially the federal government — will go to great lengths to go after debt; and some borrowers currently frustrated by their debt may not realize the impact of non-payment on future financial goals.Still, Occupy Student Debt, with its concrete plan of action and list of goals, represents an intriguing evolution of the Occupy movement — and one that could reach beyond those protesting.
They’re launching this today, on the heels of their total failure to shut down Wall Street last week. Many occupiers have probably been on this little “plan” for a while. It’s tough to pay the bills on a non-salary from playing drums in the park all day.