Debt Activists Are Planning to Strike If Biden Doesn’t Extend Payment Pause

If President Joe Biden doesn’t follow up on his pledge to provide much-needed relief to the 45 million AmericansStudents who have student debt will be subject to a strike by activists, the Debt Collective announced Thursday.

The current student loan suspension expires in two weeks on August 31. The Biden administration’s decision on whether or not to extend the pause could sway the results of the upcoming midterm elections in November.

Debt activists, frustrated with Biden for waffling on the pause and for failing thus far to follow up on his campaign promise to cancel up to $10,000 of debt per borrower, say that they’ll begin striking in September if he doesn’t extend the pause. The strike will consist of 50 student debtors over the age of 50 to “highlight the destructive impact of student debt on older Americans,” the Debt Collective said in a press release.

Together, the 50 strikers have $6 million of debt, which is an average of approximately $113,000.00 per person. Several of the strikers hold over $300,000 in debt — close to the average price of a home pre-COVID. Forty-five of the 50 strikers were women.

Many older debtors talk about their student loans as oppressiveFor the better part their lives, they have had to bear heavy burdens. Although older borrowers are often overlooked when discussing student debt, they are the fastest-growing segment of student debtors.

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“I’m going on strike because I simply cannot pay off my student loans,” Dawn Wills, a Black woman from New York who will participate in the strike, said in a statement. “I have been paying for over 20 years and the interest just keeps adding up and the amount has ballooned from $50,000 to over $100,000.”

“I tried several times to get relief by working in nonprofit organizations to get the public service cancellations but was unsuccessful,” she went on. “I feel that I am in a trap with no escape.”

“I have worked constantly, sometimes three jobs at a time, even to this day at age 50,” said Susan Laws, another debt striker. “But my undergraduate debt from 1994 is still $96,000. I’ve called my loan servicer several times to ask why my nearly $600/month payment was going entirely to interest and never to the principal. I was told ‘that’s just the way your loan is structured.’ I have paid over $50,000, which is more than I owed when I graduated.”

The strike will be part a larger effortThe Debt Collective aims to encourage as many borrowers to stop paying student loan repayments as possible. This doesn’t mean defaulting on payments, the group says, which has long term, harmful consequences for student debtors.

Instead, the group defines debt strike as having borrowers take all steps to reduce their regular payments down to $0. This can be done through public service student loans forgiveness, applying to waivers for people who have predatory for-profit schools debt, or any other method.

According to the activists, previous debt strikes and mobilizations by the Debt Collective were successful in cancelling billions of dollars worth of debt.

This week, the Biden administration canceled $3.9 billion in debt for 208,000 borrowers who attended ITT Technical Institute, the now-defunct for-profit school that the Education Department said “intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs” in order to glean a profit from federal student loan programs.

The administration had begun to take effect earlier in the summer. Annulled $5.8 billionIn loans for 560,000 borrowers that attended Corinthian Colleges. Officials found that Corinthian Colleges was another for-profit school which lied to and defrauded borrowers. Both of these cancellations were due to years ofDebt activists are working to bring attention to the loans and to strike.

The Biden administration Has hintedIt is possible that it will extend the pause. With so little time before the pause expires, borrowers live in fear of having to restart their payments. A survey from earlier this year found that the vast majority of borrowers say they’re not prepared for payments to start, a problem that has likely been exacerbated over the months as inflation soars.