When faced with the staggering statistics on student loans, such as the fact that total student loan debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark and that student loan debt for those age 18 – 29 is up 76% in five years, it’s easy to feel helpless. And even more so if you are one of the millions of borrowers struggling to repay your loans.
But it’s not a lost cause. Efforts to provide relief for those who are deep in debt and restore sanity to higher education costs are gaining momentum. Make no mistake: this will not be an easy battle. Billions of dollars earned by lenders, servicers, student loan debt collectors, and even the government are at stake. That means things won’t change unless the millions of borrowers, parents, and citizens who are affected by this debt speak up.
Want to make your voice heard? Here are seven ways you can get involved:
Share Your Student Loan Story
You may not feel quite as alone once you hear what others are going through. Personal stories are also very effective in garnering media attention to the issues involved. Here are some places to share your story:
Occupy Student Debt: Borrowers are asked to submit a picture that shows how much they borrowed for school, versus how much they owe now. While you are there, read their goals page for a fresh take on tired arguments that put the blame on students. Example: “Not every social worker should have been a biophysicist.”
Move.On.orgs’s Bank on Students Campaign: Parents, students and professors can share their stories about how student debt has affected them on Tumblr here.
Student Loan Borrower Assistance: A project of the National Consumer Law Center, this site offers a wealth of information and resources for borrowers. You can share your experience with financing a higher education here.
Credit.com blog: Students who have managed to get their student loans cancelled due to disability often find themselves facing a potentially massive tax bill as a result. Share your story about student loan debt cancellation and taxes here. While you are there, check out Mitchell Weiss’s insights into the issues facing student loan borrowers.
Weigh In On Legislation
We’ve been here before: rates on certain subsidized Stafford loans are set to double July 1, 2013 if Congress fails to act. As a result, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to try to protect students from this increase, including the Student Loan Affordability Act; Smarter Solutions for Students Act; and the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act.
But once this issue is addressed (as it most likely will be in one way or another), the bigger problem of unmanageable debt remains. You can be sure they are hearing from lobbyists. Letting your legislators know your views on this issue is critically important.
You can also keep up with the student loan legislation at the state and federal level at the US PIRG Affordable Higher Education Updates page.
Signing petitions for efforts you support takes just a minute. After you’ve signed, you can spread the word about the petition through email or social media channels. While there are many petitions about specific legislation going at any given time, here are a few sites that maintain regular campaigns.
The Project on Student Debt features petitions based on their latest initiatives and campaigns. For example, at the time this article was written, they were asking visitors to sign a petition supporting legislation to stop student loan rates from doubling.
I Am Not A Loan is a campaign by the nonprofit Education Trust. Students don’t sign the petition; instead they ask their schools to sign a pledge to reduce student loan debt. At the site, they can find out if their school has signed on, and learn about actions they can take to help promote affordable college educations.
Search Change.org for the term “student loan” to find current petitions about student loan debt. Or start one yourself!
Join Movements on Facebook
The Institute for College Access and Success is working to make college affordable and accessible to everyone. By following them on Facebook you’ll be updated on legislative efforts, and you can join the discussion on important issues facing student loan borrowers.
Student Loan Justice is founded by Alan Collinge who wrote the groundbreaking book The Student Loan Scam. A grassroots organization, they are fighting to return standard consumer protections – including bankruptcy – to student loans. They maintain an open group on Facebook in addition to their website.
Forgive Student Loan Debt (now StudentDebtCrisis.com) is a movement that began in January 2009 when founder Robert Applebaum proposed forgiving student loan debt to stimulate the economy. Many many borrowers agreed, and the grassroots movement was off and running. Follow them on Facebook or on their website.
Default: The Student Loan Documentary is an award-winning documentary, produced in the fall of 2011, that shares the story of individuals affected by student loan debt and describes the growing crisis. Follow them on Facebook or their website.
The Young Invincibles is a non-profit group focused on issues affecting 18- 34 year olds, including higher education costs. Check out their interactive student debt infographic and join the movement on Facebook as well.
You can follow all of the sites mentioned in this article on Twitter. In addition, you may want to join the conversation at the following hashtags: #studentloans #DontDoubleMyRate #StudentDebtCrisis #DreamsNotDebt #StrikeDebt
Talk to Regulators
Student debt was one of the first issues the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tackled with their Know Before You Owe tool, and they continue to take a leading role in the effort to protect borrowers against predatory lending practices. Share your student debt story with them or submit a complaint against a student loan lender, servicer or debt collector.
Finally, virtually all of the organizations in this article welcome financial support as well. If you’ve been able to pay back your student loan debt, and want to help the next generation, you can pay it forward with a monetary donation. Before you do, you will need to do your due diligence.
How are you getting involved in student loan advocacy? Share your story in the comments below.
Please note, this is not an endorsement of the organizations listed and the views in this article are those of author and not necessarily Credit.com.
Image: Lite Pictures