Rutgers students want Sallie Mae off campus
By John Connelly, Rutgers University Student Assembly President
On October 17th, students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ gathered to speak out about the crisis posed by educational debt. 50 students gathered at Brower Commons, one of Rutgers University’s “free speech” zones, to speak out about the impact debt has had on our personal lives, as well as the ways in which corporations such as Sallie Mae exploit students in their drive for higher and higher profits. Each of us was given a piece of paper upon which we wrote the amount we would owe come graduation and, once everyone spoke, we collectively ripped these papers as a symbol of our need to free ourselves from the burden of our student loans.
We have a tendency to see debt as an entirely personal problem, as an individual’s responsibility to “pay what one owes.” Events like Wednesday’s serve the purpose of reminding students that we are all facing this problem together. With over one trillion dollars of educational debt in the country, it seems clear that my share of that sum (roughly 20 grand) is not simply my problem, but part of a larger bubble the burden of which we will all have to share if something is not done.
It’s also important to remember that student debt is a problem we can address on the local level. Many universities pay the same corporations profiting off of predatory student loans to then collect tuition from students who are having difficulty paying on time. Rutgers University is one such institution. Here, we pay the General Revenue Corporation (GRC), a subsidiary of Sallie Mae, to collect on these unpaid term bills. For their services, the GRC, receives 25% of the fees they collect – or a quarter on every dollar. The same company that bets against the ability of students to pay back our loans in a timely fashion profits when we Scarlet Knights cannot pay our Rutgers tuition. This information enraged those of us at Brower Commons on Wednesday, but unfortunately, Rutgers is far from the only school at which this is the norm.
The Rutgers Student Union, a grassroots student organization and one of the sponsors of the event, is launching a campaign to rid our campus of the GRC. If we are successful, it would mean a serious blow to the largest private owner of student debt in the country. We encourage students on other campuses to look into what private loansharks your administration might be contracting, and to join us in organizing against them.