October 5, 2009
Secretary Arne Duncan
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Re: The Student Lending Crisis
Dear Secretary Duncan:
My name is ___________________ , and I am a supporter of the Forgive Student Loan Debt Movement. [Feel free to provide a personalized message here, i.e., you could state where you're from, how much debt you owe (private and/or federal), what degrees you hold, and if you're presently employed (by whom? doing what?)/underemployed/unemployed, etc. But keep it brief].
It is my understanding that you have the power to help those of us struggling to pay our student loan debt, and I am hoping that you will meet with Mr. Applebaum and Ms. Johannsen to discuss ways in which the Department of Education could immediately help millions of Americans who are destitute as a result of pursuing higher education. I'm urging you to consider Mr. Applebaum's proposal to forgive student loan debt. You can read his proposal here: http://www.forgivestudentloandebt.com/.
I am part of an ever-growing grassroots movement. At this point, the Forgive Student Loan Debt movement has 238,683 supporters. Many of us possess advanced degrees (J.D.s, M.A.s, M.B.A.s, etc.) - despite our achievements and various talents, we feel hopeless, angry, and desperate as a result of realizing that we're trapped in a system that is corrupted, broken, and woefully unregulated.
In an attempt to raise further public awareness, Ms. Johannsen has now recruited the first group of Forgive Student Loan Debt volunteers. These volunteers are actively recruiting more individuals to help her collect donations, assist her with organizing more cohesive and active groups across the U.S., and so forth. (In addition, Mr. Applebaum will be implementing regional chapters with team leaders to establish further collective cohesion, adding to Ms. Johannsen's success in her nationwide organizing).
We feel as if we've been forgotten, and it seems that the Obama Administration is only concerned about students who are either in the K-12 system or presently students in college. While I applaud your plans to improve schools at the K-12 level, as well as working to increase funds with Pell Grants (among other things) in higher education, these measures do not help those of us who have either graduated from college or accrued debt without any sort of diploma in hand.
I have some simple questions:
(a) Why are we not a concern or part of your agenda to help lower- and middle-class Americans struggling with high levels of student loan debt? (I won't even go into the obvious predatory lending and the way in which many lenders are getting away with criminal practices in various states - Iowa and Colorado are two situations that come to mind).
(b) Do we not matter to the productivity of American society?
In raising these questions, I am not trying to be confrontational. However, many of us feel as if the Obama Administration has abandoned us. Are we somehow damaged goods? If so, why? Why aren't we worth helping?
In Ms. Johannsen's blog - Education Matters - she argues that the student lending industry has created a new class of Americans - the indentured educated class. These people - that includes me - in this new class are hoping that you will listen to them. Ms. Johannsen recently asked us to fill out a questionnaire. In it she asked to answer the following question: "if you didn't have student loan debt, what would you buy instead?" People responded with the simplest desires, and that was heartbreaking. One woman said she'd like to buy curtains at Target, while another person said she'd buy gas to visit her family who live far away. [Feel free to personalize this part, too. Let him know what you'd buy, if you didn't have so much student loan debt].
Many of us feel betrayed by Congress and by President Obama. The growing anxiety being expressed on our Facebook page is obvious. In fact, I've noticed a dramatic increase in suggestions that everyone revolt, stop paying their loans, and send all of their money to the Forgive Student Loan Debt Movement. Rest assured, neither Mr. Applebaum nor Ms. Johannsen endorse such suggestions. Instead, they both urge us to write to our representatives, the President, you, TICAS.org, and ask that this crisis be solved through appropriate measures. That's exactly why I'm writing to you today - I fully agree with their belief in changing things through either legislation or by measures you can take now as the Secretary of the Department of Education. You have the power to do so.
The student lending crisis is affecting the recovery of the economy. I know that there are millions of Americans like me - they are hard-working, educated, and eager to contribute to American society. I am ashamed to be in this financial situation, but I refuse to blame myself. Too many things point to systemic problems that have put me in this situation and millions of others. Please do something to help us. I do not want to be a part of a generation - generations for that matter - who fall off the societal grid, just because I sought higher education. What will this do to the health of the middle class?
Again, it's great that the Obama Administration is focused on education reform. For a moment, let's assume that you succeed in vastly improving the K-12 school systems across this country and more students are able to attend college. I'm afraid I would not be able to applaud your success. If the student lending situation remains the same, I would tell students that they should think twice before deciding to go to college. I would tell them that they will be worse off if they decided to go to school. I would say to them, "you will end up like me - educated, yet indentured." Please help us change this problem, so that I may think otherwise.
Thank you for your time and consideration.