No matter what your political views or ideology, most everyone agrees that the student debt crisis in the U.S. has reached critical mass. Rising tuition and fees across the nation’s colleges and universities have many Americans wondering if college was truly the best path for them when there aren’t enough jobs to keep pace with the amount of graduates each year.
For many graduates, student loan debt has become one of the most pressing issues in the new economy. In a recent TIME magazine article, Jon Meacham writes that issues like student loan debt, rising healthcare and housing costs are making The American Dream more and more elusive. Many graduates are working harder, gaining less and constantly struggling to keep some semblance of life amid one of the toughest financial recessions in a generation.
While there have been efforts in the Obama administration to offset and help Americans dealing with student debt, many, like Robert Applebaum, believe there is still much left to be accomplished. Applebaum is the founder and executive director of forgivestudentloandebt.com. His goal is to alleviate the burden associated with student loan debt for all Americans. I caught up with him to get his thoughts on how everyday Americans can work to change the current crisis.
NIXON: Do you feel politicians have been reluctant, unaware or unconcerned on this issue?
APPLEBAUM: There’s a great deal of ignorance about the student debt crisis, not just in Congress, but across the nation. Those affected by the crisis feel they have no voice (or at least felt that way until this movement came along), and those without student debt are completely oblivious. I put Congress into the oblivious category, because I’d like to believe that if they were truly aware of the reality of the crisis, they’d do everything they can to avoid another financial crisis like the one in 2007-2008. The good news is that we’ve been moderately successful in educating the general public, including Congress, and I’m, therefore, hopeful that Congress will eventually stop the partisan bickering and gridlock and start doing the work that they were elected to do.
NIXON: Outside of asking for individuals to sign a petition, what else can they do to get lawmakers’ attention on this issue?
APPLEBAUM: Write and call as often as possible. Repeatedly. Share personal stories of student loan hell. Engage others on social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and help continue to educate the public and lawmakers. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and, as such, it is my belief that the more we stay on top of those who purport to represent us, the public pressure will eventually reach a point where it’s too loud to be ignored.
Persistence is key. I have a very loyal, enthusiastic base of support, with hundreds, if not thousands of people actively engaged on a daily basis in terms of contacting members of Congress either by phone or in person, writing letters to the White House, the Department of Education, etc. Many have written letters to the editor of their local newspapers, and all of these things are actions that anyone can and should take as often as possible to drive the message home. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, when you consider that this movement is only a mere 3-5 years old, I think we’ve made incredible strides towards restoring sanity to a very broken system.
Earlier this year, the student debt clock hit $1 trillion dollars. It is one of the largest student loan amounts in the history of the U.S. In order to change this very broken system, it will take a coordinated effort from men and women across this country to alleviate not only the catastrophic debt, but recapture The American Dream. More to come on this topic soon.