Introduce yourself

This is a place for newcomers to say hello, and for the rest of us to serve as a welcoming committee. Tell us a little bit about yourself, share your debt story, ask your questions, and get plugged in.


Hello! My name is Alex Bennett and I am a graphic designer and artist working in the Seattle area. I have a BFA in studio art and an MFA in digital art. Unfortunately, my debt for these 2 degrees is 100k+ and growing. If I were to go back into regular repayment, I’d be expected to pay upwards of a grand a month even on an IDR plan. I just finished grad school in 2017 and had about 2 years worth of contract work then COVID hit. I’m currently mostly unemployed, and working minimal part time as a public school visiting artist. I haven’t landed full time work since I left school and have no way of meeting my expected payments. I recently listened to a Haymarket Books talk with Astra Taylor and decided I wanted to join this community. Happy to be here and join the debt fight.


Hi there @jadefalcon3 I am in the Seattle area too. Nice to meet you. My name is @Dawn_L and I am a Striker. glad you are here. Do you want to have a call to meet and talk about the student debt campaign a bit?


Hello! My name is Arlene, I’m in the DC area. I heard about the Debt Collective from a panel or talk hosted by Haymarket! My boyfriend saw it first and he sent it to me; blew my mind. We bought the book and I’m reading through it now. I have student and credit card debt. I believe I have close to $60,000 in student debt from getting my Bachelor’s degree. Some of it is federal, some private. Very excited to join the union and help folks get out of the bind of debt.


Wall Street is making money off student loans & controlling debtors by having a grip on credit scores. Do not wait for politicians to solve this problem. Trump in 2016 promised to fix it and didn’t. Do not expect more from Biden.
An organized and announced mass strike will cause Wall Street to react. When Wall Street reacts, government reacts. If Trump & GOP were wise they would steal the thunder from Biden that could reverberate down the campaign trail for 50 years. There are 40 million of you with $1.7 trillion in debt. Trump said when you owe $1 million & can’t pay you are in trouble. When you owe $1 billion and can’t pay the bank is in trouble. You owe $1.7 trillion and won’t pay & the whole banking system is in trouble.
Force their hand NOW!! If Trump forgives student loans the GOP will have future leverage. To get back those who may be influenced by that, the Democrats will have to make higher education tuition free. The power of student loans is that Wall Street has become dependent on them. Strike and Wall Street will begin to crash. Wall Street crashing will get Congress to bail them out. Part of that bail out will be to pay off student loans. That money goes to banks but will be insufficient because your loans have been bundled, hypothecated and rehypothecated so the value has been multiplied. $1.7 trillion will not be sufficient so Wall Street will be bailed AGAIN, but at least you will be relieved of your shackles.
I am of the generation that had tuition free higher education back in the 60s when the US was richer (sarcasm). My daughters, both 50+ each still owe $10,000+. I am horrified!!
Have an announced strike now so you can go into the New Year without your heavy burden. If my daughters spend 10 hours each recruiting strikers and each of those recruits gets more strikers enough to provoke debt cancelation, they would have earned $1,000 for each of those 10 hours. You have the opportunity to do something significant that no generation since the 60s/70s has had and you don’t need to hit the streets just stop paying and let all know about it.


Hi, Arlene, my name is Travis (though, everyone knows me as Pietro), and I live the DC metro area. Montgomery Co to be exact. I, too, have about that much debt and between federal and private loans. Glad to see another DC area person joining and would be up to connect with you about debt striking. Let me know!! :slight_smile:


My name is Ella (she/they). I am 22, living in Berkeley, California. Soon to move to Hawaii for six months. Having a LOT of shame come up around graduating in the next year with likely 200K (and growing, with interest) in loans. When I was 18, all I wanted to do was go to my dream school… chasing the most prestigious and most expensive school that I got into to feel like I was worth something. I was so young… I had NO conversations in my family about the reality of the amount of debt I was about to take on, because secrecy and denial felt easier in my family than honesty. Debt keeps people in the system, working for the man. It keeps them scared and isolated and their head down. I don’t want the decisions we made as vulnerable teenagers to determine the kind of life we live, taking the first job out of college just to survive and pay off debt as fast as you can. Debt is a slow, mental prison that slowly erodes you from the inside out. It erases the possibility for risk-taking, for following your dreams, for making mistakes and learning from them. It punishes the 99.9% and makes us feel like we’re the problem when the SYSTEM is the f*cking problem. I want better for me and better for us. And I truly believe in people power.


Good Morning, My name is Joshua Caldwell, and currently my status is considered permanently disabled. Furthermore, my situation with student loans have defaulted due to a few circumstances. When first approved for disability, the knowledge of debt forgiveness was found through hours of research on the topic. I had begun the process, in 2017, and thought that it was completed. Without further knowledge or correspondence on the issue, and assuming that it was taken care of, I had ignored. In the fall of 2017, a relationship that went for a little over 9 years, was at its end, and relocation of residential status was required. So if anything had been sent to me, I was unaware of my mail that was long forgotten. In the spring of 2020, I had started working with the office of vocational rehabilitation to return to an educational facility, in order to provide for myself and family, with much greater means of success. Without a degree, or proper training, and with current factors that remain unfavorable with an employer, this appeared to be the correct approach. I had undergone most of their testing, and was making strides to obtain a degree in a field much more suitable to my strengths. Then our current pandemic struck, leaving me to take care of the house and family while my partner (who is a nurse) worked her butt off. Shortly after, we learned of her brain aneurysm, which meant my personal life was once more set aside. Around July of this year, I had received a letter stating that I had a balance on my federal student loans that had gone into default, and garnishments were to take place if a payment wasn’t made. At the time, life had become so hectic that it was placed on hold. Luckily, the aneurysm was taken care of (though she is still in recovery, however back to work), and two days a week were back open for me to pursue my goals once more. I had started the process once more to gain knowledge and accreditation in a field, when a road block was hit. I had forgotten of the default, and was unable to receive any financial aid. Furthermore, with the debt affecting my credit, and with a small income, I was unable to obtain any loans. I had called the department where I filed for disability forgiveness, and found out that I had never finished the paperwork that was sent in the mail. Also, I still qualify, yet would be unable to obtain any financial aid for the next 3 years. Then, I contacted the federal aid department, and their only option available was to have them send the paperwork, for myself to file out, and return, for them to make a decision on monthly payment options. After several months, I would be able to come out of default and once more have the ability to accept federal loans. However, I will be 35 this upcoming April, and feel like this is something needed sooner than later. I didn’t know where to turn, so I kept reading as much as possible until I found this community and thought I should ask for guidance here.


Hi! My name is Joey Aszterbaum. I’m getting my Masters in Education and already owe over $80k. I’ve stepped back on my political organizing, but had to join DC. Just emailed my network to join. I’m so grateful this exists.


Hi Joshua,

I’m glad to meet you and angry about your story. I can’t say I have any advice or guidance yet, being new to this. But I do know that none of this should happen to us (I had a similar story wrt medical debt) and I’m glad to meet you.


Hi there,

Greetings from Florida. Nice to meet all of you and welcome.

Back story, I was suckered into a for-profit college when a I decided to go back to college in my 20s. I found a career I was wanting to pursue and didn’t realize there were predatory colleges. The fake college stole my pell grant money, money out of my pocket and took out loans without notifying me. Within 2 years, they stole 50k with half in FFEL loans (government backed loans but held by 3rd party banks).

As the school withdrew me for I know reason, I attempted to enroll at the community college only to find out no credits would transfer and I had to start over but without any financial help for grants and scholarships. I eventually graduate with my masters degree topping off 75k but it’s taken me 8 years to climb the ladder to obtain even a ok position to make a salary.

Looking forward to working with you all as we fight this injustice!


Hey all! I’m Jaclyn (she/her), and I just finished my Bachelor’s over in Denver. Currently facing down about 40k in student loans, plus the personal debt I’ve accrued in order to finish school- No co-signers or financial help as both my parents were lower-middle class growing up. I’m extremely proud of my accomplishment as a first-generation college graduate and would love to have the opportunity to further my education, but cannot even begin to fathom taking on another 60k+ in student loans. However, with Covid, most positions out there consider me over or under qualified, and the field I worked in for 10 years is crumbling and honestly not worth the amount of time and effort required.
I don’t believe any of us should be barred or punished for seeking a higher education due to our economic status. Knowledge is power and power belongs with the people!
Excited to meet everyone and contribute to this fight.

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I may have already done this elsewhere, but just in case…

I’m a teacher, writer and reluctant salesman WITHOUT EDUCATION DEBT. I am lucky enough to have had a family member who could pay off my debt.

I’m here to help. I live in southeast WI.

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Hey there everyone. I’m Megan and live in Richmond Virginia. I’m originally from Tampa Florida. I have my bachelor’s in business management. My debt actually stems from ITT tech in Tampa. I didn’t make it 2 full semesters and have about 11k in debts. Don’t even necessarily want to be reimbursed for what I’ve paid in, just want it gone. I realized that predatory lending has captured me, and are illegally obtained federal loans. I stumbled across a group on Facebook that was fighting back and have since began. My loans have been in administrative forbearance for some time now and I’m continuing to fight. These debts go against our founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Should not go into debt to further yourself in life. The financial models for a regular college are obscene and has been something that I’ve passionately fought for. Excited to join in and assist in any way possible. I was featured in an NPR article years ago in Tampa about ITT Tech and look forward to assisting in that manner as well. Thanks for the invitation.


Hi all-
Eleanor Burke, outside of Bellingham WA.

I went back to school in 2017 to earn a Master’s in Teaching degree and now have about $20,000 in debt. I was also a low income head of household single parent, yet this didn’t help much to find me scholarship or grant money. I watched as students in my cohort, younger than me and w/ no dependents were able to juggle full time grad school, work outside the home & offered TA ships. Thus I learned as many student parents have that parents are rarely supported. I did have some sympathetic professors who welcomed my son in their class on more than one occasion when his school schedule & mine did not overlap. I had a p/t graduate assistantship that only lasted 3 quarters & due to parenting demands was unable to work outside the home on top of it all.

B/c of co-parenting agreements I can’t move out of the area in order to take on the teacher forgiveness program. So my first year out of grad school I worked as a sub - which was so low paid and inconsistent that I took a classfied position working with Special Education elementary students- even though I’m a trained HS English teacher! Then Covid-19, my hours got furloughed, and none of the local districts are hiring. So now I’m basically a stay at home mom homeschooling my son until schools reopen in person. I’m not paying my loans since they are deferred due to Covid, and I don’t plan to pay them back.

My working class carpenter partner is now supporting us, and I’m living off $200 a week unemployment, $350 child support and food stamp money.

I love school and would love to do more; I dream of getting a PhD… but the debt sucks. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories!


Howdy All!
I’m Bek (she/they). I’m a full time #vanlifer for 3yrs currently based in Oregon. I have $274,513.61 in student debt, all Federal Direct Loans, administered by FedLoan/Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

I did all the right things! I have the “right” degrees, I consolidated my loans with the “right” program for PSLF, but none of that matters when the public service organizations are too strapped for cash to hire anyone. And having done the right thing definitely doesn’t matter when the system never had any intention of honoring the PSLF deal.

Apparently I’ve somehow managed to pay $15,681.70 since 2014. What would I have done with an extra $2,000/yr? I think of the months that I should have put myself into hardship deferment/forbearance, but didn’t because I wanted my payment to count towards PSLF. I think about those months hen I was making enough money that Obama&Biden thought I should be making payments even on a IBR plan, but it sure wasn’t enough money to buy new tires, afford a doctor’s visit or save towards a security deposit for my next move.

Well $15,000 is enough. They’re not getting another dime. And we’re not settling for $10k forgiveness for the people who are never ever going to be able to pay anyway. We’re not settling for $50k forgiveness for people who absolutely shouldn’t have had to pay in the first place. We’re demanding all of it. Complete immediate erasure of every copper-plated zinc penny, regardless of school, regardless of degree, and yes (gasp!) regardless of income.

I’ll see you at the actions everyone!


Hi. My name is Tiffany. Remember those annoying “Get off the couch” commercials? My ex husband and an Everest employee pressured me to join the Pharmacy Tech associates degree program in 2010. I was exhausted and just wanted them to leave me alone. The actual job was alot different than school portrayed it and I absolutely hated it. I worked as a Pharmacy tech at Walgreens and ended up transfering over to the cosmetics department where I am alot more comfortable. But Navient says I owe $30,000.

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Hi everyone, I’m Patrick in Boston, MA. I just finished reading Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay and I’m really excited to join this Debtor’s Union.

I am $110K in debt from student loans ($65K private, $45K federal) for my BA from Northeastern University—a private, nonprofit institution. I started with $90K. Despite making $40k in total payments since graduating in 2014, plus contributing some money from my part-time jobs while in school, my total debt has only gone up.

I have refinanced and consolidated these loans multiple times, and even moved to Mexico for a while in an attempt to save money on rent so I could make my payments. Living in Boston for over 10 years, I have struggled with high rent and living expenses, but have felt it necessary to stay in a city because that’s where the jobs and the money are. (However, now that I can work remotely, we are considering moving farther away to save on rent.) I have no real savings (maybe $2000 here or there, but I will probably have to blow that on moving expenses soon) and it feels like I have no way to support the future family that my partner and I want because of this debt. Until this year, I have never made over $50K/yr at a job despite my best efforts (I finally started making $55K this year).

I have done everything in my power to make a dent in my loans and they have only grown. The absurdity of the situation cannot be overstated. Nor can its inhumanity, or its unsustainability. In any other country, this would not be a problem.

I can go on and on preaching to the choir here. At this point, I just want to know how I can help make a positive impact and really get some momentum behind this movement. I think at this juncture in US history, when student debt abolition, or at least partial cancellation, is mainstream news, amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, we have to seize this opportunity to push for full student debt cancellation, federal and private. And higher education should be free. Period. We have figure out a way to convince the general public that student debt, and usurious debt in general is bad—not just for 45 million of us, or so—but for the entire economy.

Please tell me how I can be useful.


Ugh, I hate Everest so much. They have ruined me! The whole school was a bunch of lies and BS. What are you doing now?



Hi all! My name is Shannon Smythe. I’m newly living in Lewes, DE. Glad to be joining this community and ready to become a Debt Striker. I just told my story in an ad in Wilmington, DE’s paper as a letter to President-elect Joe Biden.
"Back in 1998, as a new college student, I had plans to study Spanish to become a high school Spanish teacher. But after my first course in Christian theology, I knew God was calling me in a different direction. Thus began my fourteen-year journey in higher education. I earned two Bachelor of Art degrees (Christian Theology and Educational Ministry), a Master of Divinity degree and a PhD in systematic theology. While I had enough scholarships, and a little help from family, to make it through my first four years of college, the scholarships for my masters and PhD program did not cover the extraordinary cost of ten years of full-time graduate work.

Nearly seven years after completing my studies, I still have graduate student loans totaling nearly $95,000. While never de-faulting on my loans, I have entered periods of loan forbearance, due to becoming a new mom, and a long season of unemployment and financial hardships for my family. In 2019, this uncertainty became further heightened when my newly acquired tenure track position, as an assistant college professor, was cut because of falling student enrollment.

Today, I am grateful to be serving as pastor of a small church in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It would be our honor to have you join us for services next time you are in town.

Prior to COVID-19, my student loan payments, which were income-based, only covered accrued interest. Combined with the student loans of my husband, a clinical social worker, our student loans total $157,000. Currently, we are renting a small condo in Lewes, DE, to split the distance between our jobs. Our rent is high.

When both of us have to pay on our student loans, it is like having a second mortgage, or paying rent twice.

Here’s the deal, we have little savings, and our student loans prevent us from saving for retirement or our son’s college edu-cation. Having $10,000 or $50,000 canceled is inadequate. My principal balance is so high that the amount will only impact the interest, which will build up again. Without total loan cancelation, we do not have much hope that we will ever be free of student loan payments, and therefore, never able to save for our future.

My husband and I are committed to serving our community, both in my ministry and his career in social work. Neither of us chose lucrative careers, but we deserve a real future with hope of financial freedom and security.

There are countless other families like ours with similar stories, struggles, and fears. I know that our government has shown up for the American People in the past.

The student loan crisis today offers a defining moment where we need you, President-elect Biden, to stand up for us, to release us into a Year of Jubilee, to usher in 2021 as a year of release from indebtedness and all types of bondage.

As you enter office, will you let your first one hundred days be
a time to rebalance an imbalanced economic structure that has many of us trapped? Will you consider your first days in office as if they were that biblical “seventh” year, in which God had said: “you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the LORD’s remission has been proclaimed” (Deut. 15:1-2)? May God grant you the wisdom to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
Pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church Rehoboth Beach, DE"