A guest post by Christina DeVries, Director of Development at Students United
I wish the joy of saying fuck it to more things in my life had come sooner. Fuck it to the idea of diets. Internal worth comes in all sizes. Fuck it to the relationships that I knew weren’t good for me. That gut instinct is to be cultivated for a reason. Fuck off to endless summer catcalls. Seriously, why? Fuck it to the idea that people at 18, 19 or 36 years old have a sound idea of their entire life ahead and are ready to take on heaping amounts of student loans. In all my moments to find places to say fuck it to a system that didn’t serve me, I also found more of my power.
More than half of all Americans who pursued a degree have debt from their higher education experience. According to the Trellis Foundation, women hold almost two-thirds of the outstanding loan debt in the United States and black women have the highest loan debt of any racial or ethnic group. Systemic, historical gaps in wealth access show up in borrowing trends to pay for the cost of higher education. Black students are more likely to take on debt and graduate with nearly twice the amount of debt compared to white students (Brookings Edu).
I used to feel a lot of shame about the student debt I have, but fuck it, I don’t feel that way anymore. This is the way the system was designed to work. The federal government has guaranteed loans to students while backing down on their investment to fund public institutions. The divestment from state and federal governments in public higher education leaves gaps that are replaced with increase tuition bills. We share the burden of the government’s failures.
We’re told in order to make money we need to have a higher education, so we take out loans in hopes of a better life. Once we have that education, those loans keep us from fulfilling that life we hoped to live. The story of the burden is often told in monetary amounts: $400/month average monthly payments; hundreds of thousands of dollars for advanced degrees; postponing home ownerships or starting new businesses; paycheck-to-paycheck living. Wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living. Those numbers don’t always translate into how the burden of this debt feels month-to-month.
This debt holds people back from living truly free lives – with ample choices that go beyond what they can afford. Degree earners and degree seekers hold this debt. Folks who co-signed on loans for their kids or grandkids, hold this debt. So, how long will we wait to fix this broken system?
The time is now. Welcome to FCK Student Debt and the Student Debt Cancellation Fund.
As a Minnesota-based organization, Students United has been harnessing the power of organized students for more than 50 years. Tuition has just been raised again and since the 1970s tuition has seen a 2,224% increase at Minnesota State Universities.
The Student Debt Cancellation Fund is raising money to wipe out people’s student loan debts in full. Women, Black and Indigenous peoples, and people of color to the front. First-time college students and LGBTQIA+ friends, those who left school early, have or are experiencing homelessness, or have interacted with the carceral system, or have student loan debt, this is for all of us. The Student Debt Cancellation Fund is raising money to be able to then allocate out as much as we can annually to pay off debts in full.
Our first wave of fundraising is happening now. If you have loans in deferment, we’re asking you to move one month’s payment to the fund, but all sizes of gifts are welcome. Fund applications open this fall with the first awards will be distributed in the spring of 2022. Follow us for more updates and specifics.
The organizing work is not this fund alone – ask your elected representatives to change policy around student loan debt, starting with student loan debt cancellation. The policy we vote on encourages or discourages is how we care for one another in our communities. Policy change can plant roots of a more equitable college experience.