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20 Dec

Cancel It Joe! Older Americans Are Standing Up And

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The Debt Collective launched a latest campaign today: “Fifty Over Fifty.” The group’s latest crusade is “a coordinated student debt strike by older Americans to pressure President Biden to broadly cancel student debt,” in line with a press statement shared with ESSENCE.

The campaign is strategically timed after their recent debt strike victory against ITT Tech, which resulted within the Department of Education providing 200,000 plus borrowers with almost $4 billion in relief.

In accordance with Investopedia, the vast majority of student debt is held by adults over the age of 35. While borrowers under 34 held over $500 billion, their counterparts aged 35-49 and 50-61 owe balances of $622 billion and $281 billion of debt, respectively.  

The Recent Yorker recently wrote about this oft ignored issue, writing:

“Americans aged sixty-two and older are the fastest-growing demographic of student borrowers. Of the forty-five million Americans who hold student debt, one in five are over fifty years old. Between 2004 and 2018, student loan balances for borrowers over fifty increased by five hundred and twelve per cent. Perhaps because policymakers have considered student debt because the burden of upwardly mobile young people, inaction has seemed an affordable response, as if time itself will solve the issue. But, in an era of declining wages and rising debt, Americans are usually not aging out of their student loans—they’re aging into them.”

Founded by Astra Taylor in 2014, the Debt Collective became the primary of its kind, “a union for debtors” fighting for debt cancellation, publicly funded college, and universal housing and healthcare. Over the past few years, calls for cancellation of student debt have turn out to be a rallying cry. Today, these calls have was motion with this fifty-plus 12 months old group of fifty student debtors. They’ve banded together, threatening to embark on a student debt strike if President Biden doesn’t uphold his word with regard to cancelling at the least some student debt for all borrowers, as upcoming payments on student loans are expected to resume in September.

Together, these seniors have joined up publicly—an immense act of courage—to clarify that student debt shouldn’t be just an issue for our nation’s youth. As Dawn Mills, a Black Fifty Over Fifty member from Recent York said, “I’m happening strike because I simply cannot repay my student loans…I even have been paying for over 20 years and the interest just keeps adding up and the quantity has ballooned from $50K to over $100K. I attempted several times to get relief by working in non-profit organizations to get the general public service cancellations but was unsuccessful. I feel that I’m in a trap with no escape. I can’t spend my life worrying about this insurmountable debt, so I simply am not going to pay it. I’m drained.”

Indeed, student loans are almost parasitic in nature—they’ll remain with someone until death, and even impact what should protect those that reach a certain age: if one defaults on their student loans, the Department of Education can garnish Social Security.

As a real-life example, within the Eighties, Olivia Faison studied at Queens College, graduating with roughly $9,000 in debt. Despite working for several many years, she was unable to receive better-paying jobs for which she was qualified because of transcript ransom, where she couldn’t receive her transcripts as she had not paid off the cash she owed for her degree. Moreover, after finally reaching retirement age, Faison was horrified to learn that her Social Security payments were being hijacked due to her outstanding student loan debt balance. Faison has been indignant and outspoken, stating “if the massive banks and corporations need to have the identical rights as the person, then don’t I, as an actual individual, should have the identical rights that they do?”

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