Strike Debt Meeting - 22 May 2013

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5/21/2013 Strike Debt Meeting

Carolyn will send a link to a recent New York Times article on on student debt, along with links to two videos:

In Australia, student loan debt repayments are based on your job, post-graduation. You'll still pay everything back, but the payment amounts vary according to how much you're earning.

Elizabeth Warren put out a proposal regarding student loans: student loans interest rates should be the same as the interbank loan interest rate. Warren's proposal is modest: it applies to one type of student loan, and only for one year. Despite the modesty, it could be a wedge in the door. It may also guarantee that the discussion about student loan debt continues (i.e., a year from now).

What's the benefit of a college education? In the past, a college degree made you better off. Today, it makes you less worse off. Education used to be considered a social good. Today, it's treated more like a commodity.

There was an education boom after the first world war, spurred on by the GI bill. At the time, the GI bill was seen as a measure to control inflation.

There's an upcoming action against Sallie Mae. Does anyone know more about this? SEIU is starting a campaign against the University of Phoenix, and UMass nurses are planning to go on strike in the near future.

There are several (modest) education reform bills in congress. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has one.

There's also the Durbin bill, which would make student loan debt subject to bankruptcy protection. Move on is also starting a campaign on student loan debt.

The department of education makes $25B/year on student loan debt. This money goes towards paying down the national debt. It's touted as a debt-reduction measure; the debt is being paid off on the backs of college students.

All of these reforms are "in the box". No one is talking about higher education being a right. There's no demand for free higher education, or interest-free student loans.

Free on-line courses are becoming more popular. When will the first people be hired, based on certification from a free on-line program?

What's the purpose of higher education? That's not the important question. The important question is "who decides what the purpose of higher education is?". Is it a social good, a commodity, or just another way for wall street to make money?

Private college demographics are changing. Private colleges are focused more on attracting wealthy students and foreign students. People who can pay the high tuition rates. We've gone past the progressive era, and are back to the age of 19th century robber barons.

Our educational system is designed to make us good consumers. It's also about teaching people to accept authority without question. At some point, this will become a matter of supply and demand.

If people believe that college education is not worthwhile, they'll stop enrolling. Or, they'll turn to other sources of learning.

How and why did wall street turn higher education into a profit center?

There are three important questions. What are we learning? Who gets to learn it? And, who has to pay for it?

How did education get so expensive? Government divestment is part of the reason. Another is the increase in administrative staff. Some schools have more administrators than professors.

A lot of students are disqualified from college, because they were not well-served by primary and secondary schools (e.g., Charter schools).

Not all student loan debt comes from college. A significant amount comes from trade schools and certification programs.

Higher education is being used to perpetuate the way things are. You're taught the things that Wall St. wants you to learn, and you're forced into debt for having to learn them.

At our last meeting, we discussed making a video (or a series of videos) about student loan debt. James wrote a 10-part outline for the video.

We could open with a personal story of how one person became trapped by student loan debt. It could be a personal story, since it would be pretty easy to find a person. After going through the story, go back and look how we got ourselves into this situation. The personal narrative is a way to draw people in to the bigger story.

Neoliberalism isn't just about privatizing everything. It's also about corporatizing everything.

Good book: The Student Loan Scam by Allan Michael Collinge.

Can we find solutions that don't involve congressional reform. Nothing against congressional reform, but wall street seems to have congress in their back pocket.

University of Phoenix enrollment has started to plummet. Their bubble is already starting to burst.

The Story of Stuff does a lot of great videos.

Some college grants are tied to SAT scores, and family income is one of the biggest determinants of family income. As a result, there's less needs-based admission in college.

After kicking around ideas, we start putting together a list of projects to work on.

  • Steve wants to research the Bankruptcy Protection act of 2005. It would be good to see what's in the bill. It would also be good to read the debate in the congressional record, and see what was said. Once we find out who the bill's supporters were, we can try to theorize about why they supported it.
  • Joe wants to present a history of the term "peon".
  • As a group, we might work with a concert promoter on an event in July.
  • More detail about the format and structure of the video(s). We need to fine-tune the outline. Probably makes sense for a smaller group to work on this.

Next strike debt Meeting: Monday June 3rd. Location TBD.