On 1T day in New York City, hundreds of college students from around the city gathered at Union Square for a rally and then marched downtown to Wall Street. At Union Square, some students publicly burned their student loan debt documents. "1T" stands for 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) dollars, which is now the official amount of student loan debt owed to big banks by American college students.
Students in other cities around the country are also rising up in protest, many signing pledges refusing to pay back their loans.
Several hundred protesters, mostly college students wearing placards noting the size of their debt loads, rallied in New York City's Union Square park on Wednesday.
They set fire to student debt documents and held signs reading "Debt free degrees" and "Education in America: Don't bank on it."
Hadi Nassar, 31, whose eight years of undergraduate and dental school education has left him $186,000 in debt, said he was having to rethink his plan to work at a community health clinic.
"It makes me angry. It makes me not want to do what I set out to do - which was, help people, take care of people," said Nassar, a dental resident. "That type of job isn't going to give me enough income, monthly, to pay this off."
While both Democrats and Republicans agree that it is imperative to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent, as they are set to do on July 1st, they part ways as to how to cover the loss of revenue estimated at $5.9 billion.
Democrats would close a tax loophole they have dubbed the "Gingrich/Edwards Loophole," which allows millionaires to avoid paying Medicare taxes. Republicans want to eliminate the preventative health fund, which House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called a "slush fund" on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, rather than finding common ground on a way to pay for this critical policy, H.R. 4628 includes an attempt to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe," the White House said in a statement on Friday.
"Women, in particular, will benefit from this Prevention Fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America’s college students deserves. If the President is presented with H.R. 4628, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
In response to the White House threat of a veto, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel issued the following statement, “The president is so desperate to fake a fight that he’s willing to veto a bill to help students over a slush fund that he advocated cutting in his own budget. It’s a simple as this: Republicans are acting to help college students and the president is now getting in the way."
An alternative resolution to the student debt crisis was introduced as Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke made the case in April for "forgiving" student loan debt:
This month in the U.S. House, I have proposed H.R. 4170 -- The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 -- which would eliminate many of the awful consequences of educational indebtedness. In doing so, it would give Americans greater purchasing power, helping to jumpstart our economy and create jobs.
The bill provides full loan forgiveness for current borrowers who have paid the equivalent of 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years or who are able to do so over the coming years. It moreover caps interest rates on federal student loans at 3.4 percent and enables existing borrowers to break free from crushing fees by converting many private loans into federal loans.
Crucially, Americans who are behind on their payments due to a setback such as unemployment or illness would be eligible to enroll in the new program. The bill seeks to ensure that no one would be consigned to "indentured servitude" because of a stroke of bad luck.
To control costs and create prudent incentives for both students and institutions going forward, the bill allows future enrollees in the program to receive forgiveness up to a limit of $45,520 after paying up to 10 percent of discretionary income for 10 years. Under the bill, both current and future borrowers could still opt for the benefits of the existing income-based repayment program as an alternative.
If you would like to support this bill, you may do so by signing your name at HR4170.com. Rep. Clarke also suggests that you consider asking your Representative in Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor.