Occupy Abolishing Your Student Loans With Debt Market Magic

You may graduate thousands of dollars in debt, but never fear: Occupy Wall Street has launched a project this week to help eradicate the cash you owe Big Education. Called the Rolling Jubilee, the program seeks to cancel some of the debt — such as tuition, medical and mortgage debts — that 77% of American Households face.

How does it work? “In America, banks sell debt on this shadowy market full of debt buyers,” one organizer explained in a promotional video. After buying the debt for pennies on the dollar,  “debt collectors then turn around and try to extort the full amount from us.”

The Rolling Jubilee takes advantage of the system by buying the debt, and then instead of seeking to collect the money, cancels it. Poof. Because of how cheaply banks sell debt, for every $50,000 OWS can raise, it will cancel $1 million in debt. (That’s a lot of MAP classes.)

While it’s reassuring to see the Occupy movement continue on past its one-year mark and prove itself more than a flare-up movement, the numbers it’s fighting against are staggering. As documented on the Occupy website website, there is over $1 trillion — that’s a 1 with 12 zeros — in debt from tuition loans alone. To cancel out all student loans would require raising $25 billion. And that’s without factoring in medical and housing loans, which the program also seeks to cancel. So it’s not terribly likely you’ll be receiving a letter from Occupy saying your NYU loans have disappeared.

Still, the Rolling Jubilee offers a nice example of one way protestors are using the existing system to enact positive change. At publishing time, they’d already raised over $100,000, to cancel out $2 million in debt.

On Wednesday night, they’re hosting a benefit telethon called “The People’s Bailout” at Le Poisson Rouge, featuring Jeff Mangum, Janeane Garofalo, Lee Ronaldo from Sonic Youth and more. Tickets to the show are sold out, but you can stream it from Rolling Jubilee’s website here.

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3 Comments

  • Arden Elizabeth
    November 15, 2012

    A great market-based solution for student loans – nice to see organizations getting creative about solving problems in student debt. You may be interested to read about SoFi, a startup working to solve these problems through a community-based lending model that connects alumni investors with current students and recent grads looking to take out a loan or refinance to a better interest rate. Learn more: http://bit.ly/SoFiLending

  • Alan Collinge
    November 17, 2012

    Absolutely couldn’t work for federal loans. The Federal government makes (not loses) money on defaulted FFELP Loans, so the concept doesn’t work there. Period. Private student loan debt would also be far more expensive then, say, defaulted credit card debt if it were available to be purchased.

    So student loans are a no-go for this project. Get it straight, reporter.

    This is what happens when you remove bankruptcy protections, statutes of limitations, and other fundamental consumer protections from a lending instrument. Until those are restored, this, and similar projects will not work.

  • melissa abeyta
    March 22, 2013

    is it possible for a person to buy there own debt ?

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