On Monday, former students of Corinthian Colleges Inc. declared a debt strike by refusing to pay their federal loans.
These former students — who call themselves the Corinthian 15 — are the first to take such a bold stand against the current student debt crisis.
At the same time, the Rolling Jubilee has just erased over $13 million ($13,384,642.14) of student debt from Everest College, a subsidiary of Corinthian Colleges Inc. Corinthian has been the target of numerous fraud investigations by state and federal authorities.
Through this ongoing campaign, the Rolling Jubilee helped successfully pressure a debt buyer into retiring over the $13 million portfolio of Corinthian debt, and exit the private student loan business entirely! In short, we’re winning. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has been propping up Corinthian, essentially acting like a debt collector for a predatory lender. Now, we bring our fight to the DOE.
The Corinthian 15 — all former students of Corinthian’s Everest College — have declared that they cannot and will not repay their loans, and so they demand that the Department of Education cancel their debts. These students live in different parts of the country, attended school at different times, and earned degrees in different programs. They are united in their insistence that Corinthian defrauded them and that the Department of Education should discharge their debts and the debts of all other Corinthian students, both current and former.
The Corinthian 15 can serve as an example not just to other Corinthian graduates, but also to student debtors everywhere. The difference between the practices and finances of Corinthian and, say, NYU is simply a matter of degree.
A letter of support for the Corinthian 15, signed by Slavoj Žižek, Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, Barbara Ehrenreich, Robin Kelley, and many others, has also been made public.
The letter says it well:
“By declaring a strike, the Corinthian 15 are taking debt relief for themselves and challenging the Department of Education to look out for students instead of protecting rich and powerful creditors. By declaring a strike, they are taking a stand for all student debtors, by reminding us that for-profits schools are just an extreme version of our increasingly untenable system of debt-financed higher education. By declaring a strike, the Corinthian 15 are asking why the U.S. lags so far behind other industrialized societies in denying its citizenry the right to free college enrollment.”
This public strike by the Corinthian 15 marks the beginning of a new era of debtor solidarity and collective disobedience in the face of creditors’ immoral behavior and impossible demands. It also marks the public launch of the Debt Collective, a way for debtors to organize to form a new kind of power by turning their bonds into leverage.