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On Joining the Corinthian 15

Posted on March 22nd, 2015  Posted by Cullen Wheatley
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It’s a great time to be in America if you’re involved in any kind of movement. Feminist, gay, and African-American activist groups look to be making progress. Their success is signaling to other communities - like those burdened by college debt - that now is a good time to effect change.

In February a group of former students took a step to becoming the face of indebted former students. They call themselves the Corinthian 15, and they’re former students of the Corinthian Colleges system, a for-profit education company that is embroiled in legal battles concerning its predatory lending practices.  Their mission is to start a national student strike. The idea: if there are enough people going into default on their student loans, the federal government will be forced to create more favorable loan terms.

But unlike the other movements mentioned, this one comes with a great deal of downside risk that would have long-lasting effects for the participants if the movement isn’t strong enough.  To those thinking about joining the movement, consider the consequences. What if there aren’t enough people defaulting to create the impetus for change?  Boycotting loan payments leads to delinquency and then to default. If loan terms don’t change, credit scores are ruined - and it takes years of extra payments for the person to make up for the boycotted payments.

I’m personally very fortunate to have a good job and help from my family that allows me to pay off some principal on my loans each month. I’m not necessarily the low-hanging fruit for the movement. That would be the ones that have been trying so hard for years to simultaneously make ends meet and can’t seem to ever knock out the principal on their loans. I can’t say I’d blame them for jumping on board if they decided to. The movement would provide many with a way to channel resentment that they feel towards the financial institution that wronged them - and in the short term, they would have more expendable income. The problem is that this movement has the potential, if unsuccessful, to ruin a person’s future just as much as the financial institution that they borrowed from.

It’s obvious that reforms are needed, and Congress is acting. Senator Dick Durbin just last week introduced the Fairness for Struggling Students Act of 2015which would provide bankruptcy avenues for people with private student loans. While it won’t completely wipe out loan balances, as advocated by the Corinthian, it may provide hope to those struggling.
If, after thoughtful deliberation, a person decides that a boycott on payments is the best option, I wish them best of luck. I just hope that they fully understand the consequences of what they are signing up for.

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