Last year, seven out of 10 college graduates graduated with student debt, about $30,000 each, and the total student debt owed by Americans topped $1.2 trillion. At those levels, student debt isn’t just a burden — it’s become a barrier to higher education and the American Dream.
It’s time to do something about it.
On November 10, NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign kicks off a week of action that aims to raise awareness of the student debt crisis and also provide resources to ease the strain faced by too many students, parents, and educators. Activities will include student-led information sessions—held in-person on campuses from California to Massachusetts, and also on Twitter —about income-based repayment and public-service loan forgiveness programs.
Three things you can do to help:
Take the NEA’s Degrees Not Debt pledge. Stand up for college affordability alongside tens of thousands of other NEA members, students, and parents.
Share your story! Your personal story of student debt can help NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign activists press for state and federal solutions to the student debt crisis.
Click here to find a Degrees Not Debt event near you. Events are in the works in many states, including Delaware, Tennessee, Minnesota, Alabama, Illinois, and Virginia. Also look for the Twitter hashtag #degreesnotdebt to join the online conversation, and follow NEAToday on Facebook.
Some advocates couldn’t wait until November to get started on this important work! In late September, NEA Higher Ed members at Brazosport College, near Houston, sat down with nearly 100 students and community members to watch a documentary film about the cost of college, Ivory Tower, and share information about loan repayment. (The total student debt owed by those in attendance? About $342,650.)
Meanwhile NEA-Student program chair Chelsey Herrig traveled to the “Set” at Florida A&M University, an outdoor gathering place for FAMU students, to talk about NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign and share information on how her peers might afford life after college.
“Wait, what happens after you make 120 payments?” one future teacher asked Herrig.
“You’re done!” she answered.
Forty-four million Americans who work in public service are eligible to apply for federal student loan forgiveness, including 6.8 million educators. While navigating the process can be tricky, NEA has resources to help. Check them out. Also NEA encourages its members to explore income-driven repayment options, including Pay as You Earn and other federal programs.
“Most people don’t know about public service loan forgiveness or income-based repayment,” Herrig noted. But the consequences of too-little information are too high for them — and also for the nation, she added. “I know there are students who won’t enter the profession because they can’t afford to take on that debt — and that’s not right.”