NYU is Handing Out Loans for Professors' Beach Houses. Do Other Colleges Do That Too?

Viktor Koen
High-cost, low-interest loans from NYU are the hottest commodities on the market these days. On a city level, they've been used (and eventually forgiven by the school) across Manhattan to pay for profiled professors' lofts or condos. On a national level, they've made their way into the Senate, with Senator Chuck Grassley grilling Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for accepting one when he was an NYU professor. And, on a world level, they're the subject of serious backlash in relation to the school's expansion here and abroad. Now, it looks like the loans have gone coastal.

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The Rolling Jubilee Mails its First Debt Forgiveness Letters

Categories: Debt

Strike Debt activists with the first debt-forgiveness package they're sending out.
When the debt activism group Strike Debt began planning its Rolling Jubilee, the goal was relatively modest: They would raise $50,000, use it to buy distressed medical debt on secondary debt markets, and then, rather than hounding the debtors like the collection agencies that buy most of this sort of debt, they would wipe it out.

But that was before the Rolling Jubilee caught fire in the public imagination, garnering attention from the likes of Boing Boing, the New York Times, and Fortune Magazine. Even before the group had webcast its star-studded telethon, it had already surpassed its fundraising goal. To date, they've raised nearly half a million dollars -- enough to buy and forgive nearly $10 million of debt.

Most of that money is going to go to purchasing a big hunk of distressed medical debt next month, but as a sort of proof-of-concept, Strike Debt has already spent $5,000 to buy $100,000 of distressed medical debt owed by 44 people in upstate New York.

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Cooper Union Students Rally Against College Debt Everywhere in Fight to Keep Own Tuition Free

Categories: College, Debt

Jason Lewis/Village Voice
Students, observers and activists crowded The Great Hall at Cooper Union for last night's summit.
The Cooper Union students who commandeered the clock-tower at the school's Foundation building and coordinated yesterday's day of action in Cooper Square, did so to preserve free tuition for CU students, but also to protest rapidly rising college tuition costs at institutions everywhere.

"We're also here in solidarity for the state of education and the country as a whole," Jake Lee, a fifth-year architecture major at Cooper Union, tells the Voice. "Universal access to free education is the vital cornerstone of a functional democracy...Our country is very far from that."

CU students demonstrated their solidarity with students around the world last night by capping off yesterday's protests with a three-hour long summit on the country's student debt crises. Hundreds of people converged on the school's Great Hall to watch students, activists, artists and professors illuminate the burden of rapidly rising tuition costs and ballooning student debt.

"We have gone from, to the extent that we ever were, a welfare state to a debt-fare state...We're having to pay for very basic needs -- that should be available to all of us -- with debt," Amin Husain, a lawyer and social activist with ties to Occupy Wall Street, said. "This idea of debt is a way to maintain the status quo of chaining us into an economic system that further transfers wealth."

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With the Rolling Jubilee, Debt Activists Strike a Nerve

Joe Alterio
The Rolling Jubilee's campaign of debt forgiveness begins tonight.
Long before the curtain goes up on the Rolling Jubilee's kick-off telethon tonight, it was clear that the event's organizers have struck a nerve.

The Rolling Jubilee, a project of the debt-activist group Strike Debt, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street and the people behind the Debt Resistors Operation Manual, is based on a diagnosis that Americans are struggling under an ever more complex and stifling architecture of student debt, medical debt, credit card debt, and mortgages.

The solution proposed by Strike Debt is based on the biblical institution of a the jubilee, a year in which debts were wiped clean and indentured servants released from their bondage. The Rolling Jubilee will buy debt on the debt market, where it can be had for pennies and the dollar, and then, rather than hounding the debtors for repayment, it will simply forgive the debt.

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Debt Strikers, Hoping To Launch A Movement, Burn Bills And Collection Notices

Categories: Debt, Protest

Activists set fire to their debt papers Sunday in Brooklyn in a gesture meant to evoke the 1960s draft card burnings.
A few dozen people gathered in Brooklyn Inlet Park on the Williamsburg waterfront Sunday to talk about debt, have a picnic, and set some things on fire.

The mood was festive -- there was cake and lemonade, the air was crisp and clear, and the towers of Manhattan glittered across the East River.

But the purpose of the assembly was somber: to talk about the ways that different kinds of debt is strangling the people gathered there, and millions more across the nation.

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Students, Your Interest Rates Are Safe... For Now

Victor Koen
Have a massive IOU to pay off? Well, we have somewhat good news for you.

Back in April, the Voice reported on the impending student loan crisis that would have to be solved before July 1st - the day when the interest rates on 7 million students' federal loans would double to 6.8%. With the SCOTUS decision overwhelming the media and the contempt vote for Attorney General Eric Holder overwhelming Congress, the issue was more or less ignored and, just yesterday, Nick Pinto reported on the bleakness of the whole situation.

Luckily, a mysterious occurrence happened late yesterday afternoon: Congress got its shit together. In a bipartisan, co-operative, compromising, two-party agreement (any other legislative friendship words we can use?), the House and Senate both passed a bill with a large majority that will do three things:

1. Keep the interest rates at their present level of 3.4% for another year;
2. Pour money into our roads and bridges, leading to more jobs for workers; and
3. Reauthorize a flood insurance program.

Being friends is great, isn't it?
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Student Loans Become Even More Burdensome, Starting Sunday

Categories: Debt, Education

Victor Koen
If you're a student or former student with educational debt, or if you're just someone made anxious by this country's $1-trillion-and-growing student-debt bubble, you may well have breathed a sigh of relief this week when Congress reached an 11th-hour agreement to avoid doubling the interest rate on federal loans.

Phew! Students still only have to pay 34 times the interest rate of banks borrowing from the government! The educational gravy train rolls on!

But lost in legislators' self-congratulation over not jacking loan rates in the middle of an enduringly shitty economy was some less good news.

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