Sunday, February 14, 2010

Part II: Progress Report Continued

After I participated in a conference call as an affiliate and supporter of a few weeks ago, I decided to draft two posts that provided details of my own work (the first one is here). These two pieces serve as a progress report of what I am doing as an advocate to help those who are part of the indentured educated class.

There have been a number of positive developments and grassroots activities since that first posting. Even though I am extremely jet-lagged and still not accustomed to the fact that I now reside in the second largest city in the world (Seoul, Korea), I have managed to stay on top of things related to the student lending crisis in the U.S. As I suspected before moving here, I am able to do more things abroad than I was able to do in my own country. That's why this move was imperative.

In any event, here's additional points on how you can assess my work and provide me with a grade and feedback on my progress:

(a) Letter Writing Campaign to Roberto Rodriguez, Sec. Arne Duncan, Jared Bernstein, and Deputy Undersecretary Robert Shireman

For starters, many of you participated in a successful writing campaign to the White House. At least 50 of us sent the same letter to Mr. Roberto Rodriguez. Moreover, some of you opted to send in either (a) your own letters (forgoing the form letter) or (b) additional letters of appeal on top of this model.Thanks to all of you who got involved with this first of many letter writing campaigns. (We've also been sending emails to Ms. Michele Brown at the Department of Education). These letters were very touching, and I am grateful for your honesty when sharing your personal stories with me and these government officials - that takes a lot of guts, and you should feel proud of that fact.

(b) Creation of the Support Group for the Indentured Educated Class and recruitment of State Support Leaders

I created this group less than two weeks ago. It is part of a grassroots initiative, and I was inspired by two things:

(1) The filming get-together that Peter Duffy and Brandon Watts had a few months ago in L.A. They, along with artist Paul Ramirez, met with 10 people over a weekend. Pete and Brandon filmed testimonials of student loan debtors. They also made food and drinks, and later told me that it was a powerful and positive experience - the fact that they were able to meet together and face-to-face enforced a feeling of community. While we may know well online that we're not alone in this struggle, many of us still feel ashamed and alone when we're in our local communities. (Moreover, I was also able to meet Pete and Brandon - as well as DM Slaughter - the night before I left the country).

(2) Mr. Obama's grassroots campaign efforts - this campaign was remarkable for this fact alone: Mr. Obama's campaign created a real sense of community and political activity at the grassroots level. People hosted campaign parties in their homes, got together in ways they hadn't done before, etc., etc.

It's time that we begin to meet in person, and discuss ways to raise awareness about the student lending crisis in our hometowns. If you're interested in volunteering, you will serve as a point person in your state/hometown. If you have questions or concerns about things, you can reach out to me. (I have designated myself as such, "the Korean and International - as well as U.S. - Support Leader"). My hope is to have 10+ supporters in each state. Right now, there are 13 State Support Leaders. All of you have volunteered to be in this role in just a matter of days, so I am confident that we'll have many more volunteers in the next coming weeks. Thanks to those who have already agreed to get more involved. (If you are interested in volunteering, please email me here -

(c) Remaining committed to the fact that the student lending crisis affects so many different types of people - it's an inter-generational problem, and we can't forget that.

(d) Maintaining communication with notable organizations, people, Education Staffers, etc., etc. 

 (1) I continue to touch base with We have been discussing the issue of people going into default, and I intend to remain committed to that problem.

(2) Participating in lively discussions related to unemployment and so forth - these serious issues obvious intersect with the student lending crisis. The latest conversation on this topic was over at United Professionals. Along with fellow board members of United Professionals, and thanks to Karen Southall Watts (who's also a board member), we all talked about a tough topic - "Have U.S. Workers Priced Themselves Out Of The Job Market?" This discussion raised serious questions about the so-called claim that taking on student loan debt means that it's "good debt." That is so far from the truth, as many of you unfortunately know.

(3) I continue to reach out to the Education Staffer at Senator Sherrod Brown's Office. I was very impressed with the fact the office knew who I was, had been reading my blog, and wanted my feedback on the private loan debt swap proposal. I am anxious to speak to his office again and hope that this proposal will become something bigger than what it is now . . .

(4) I have also heard back from from the Chief of Staff in Congressman Danny K. Davis's office. (I met her and Congressman Davis briefly at the House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing (read here and here). I am anxious to talk at length with this office too.

(e) Noting other important contributors and bloggers  

(1) Alan Collinge, the founder of and author of The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt In U.S. History - and How We can Fight Back, has been fighting on behalf of student loan debtors for years. He is focused on restoring consumer protection rights to student borrowers. He recently wrote a solid piece over at the NYT. This piece is a plea to protect people who take out student loans.
(2) Deanne Loonin has written two excellent pieces on why we should get rid of student loan collection agencies (here and here).

(3) Edububble continues to keep up great work with unconventional insights. His most recent work covers a decent piece written by Mary Pilon at the WSJ. I want to thank Ms. Pilon for reaching out to me a few weeks ago. I know that many of you spoke to her about the fact that you were in default, and a few even discussed your plans and/or desires to default as an act of civil disobedience. 

(5) Medicinesux continues to expose the disastrous ramifications of taking out student loan debt when pursuing degrees in medicine.
(6) The folks over at Temporary Attorney never cease to make me laugh, even though their material is beyond depressing. 

(7) And Ivy Leagued and Unemployed reminds us that joblessness touches all the educated - even those from the Ivies.

It's an honor and a privilege to be connected with most of the individuals I've mentioned above. 
With this growing army of researchers, along with advocates like me, and grassroots volunteers, we might just manage to see some change in the future . . . 

Good night from Seoul!

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