Chatter on social media and across the internet has grown about a potential student debt strike.
The idea is that if enough borrowers refuse to make payments, the government will be forced to meet their demands and change student debt for the better.
Sadly, this approach seems ill-conceived and potentially ruinous for the participants.
Sherpa Thought: Many borrowers who strike do it for noble reasons. They see the federal student debt levels as a genuine crisis and are taking action to make a difference.
I have nothing but respect for someone willing to make personal sacrifices in the interest of everyone else. My commentary today isn’t meant to disparage or mock these people. Instead, it is about finding the most effective way forward.
Student Loans, Strikes and Protests
There is a rich history in our country of civil disobedience used to draw attention to major issues and to force change.
I’m not sure federal student debt is an issue where a strike moves the needle.
Even if millions of borrowers didn’t make payments, what would be accomplished?
The current administration has already been the most aggressive in advocating for borrowers. We have a new repayment plan, a huge interest subsidy, fixes to previous errors, expansion of bankruptcy protections, and they even attempted to cancel some debt for nearly all borrowers.
The opposition to this assistance appears unlikely to be influenced by a strike. They already know about the student debt crisis. They don’t care.
The extent and severity of the student debt issues in the United States are well documented.
If the goal of the strike isn’t to raise awareness, it seems that forcing the hand of the government is the strategy at play…
Forcing the Government to Make Changes
There is an old saying, “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”
Some borrowers think they have leverage over the government and that a mass strike will force action.
They are wrong.
For starters, we know the government can function without receiving student loan payments. Payments have been paused for over three years, and the government has survived without those payments.
More importantly, we already own the bank. There are over 43 million borrowers in the United States. The “bank” running federal student loans is the United States government. Our government.
Calling elected officials, campaigning, and voting are all proven methods of changing things.
Payment Strike Consequences
The on-ramp certainly minimizes the risk, but there are still consequences.
Waiting to get started on student loans could mean forgiveness takes longer, borrowers spend more in interest and miss out on valuable one-time programs.
Don’t Overestimate Crowd Size
The people striking have every reason to be vocal and loud. The more they bring to their cause, the better their odds of success.
The people who plan on resuming payments have no reason to share their opinions or motives. The people in this group likely want the strikers to be successful, so they probably won’t say a word.
Additionally, some might claim that they are not making payments because they have qualified for $0 per month payments on SAVE.
Don’t assume you are standing shoulder to shoulder with millions of other strikers because of a few comments you read online.
I was torn on whether or not to address this topic.
I recognize that by using this platform to highlight my concerns about the efficacy of a student loan strike, I’m only making it more difficult for the strikers to achieve their goals.
Ultimately, the core objective of this site is to provide insightful guidance to borrowers. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. Sometimes, it means delivering bad news, and sometimes it means telling people something they don’t want to hear.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope the debt strikers achieve their goals and our federal debts get erased.
I just don’t see it happening.
As for this borrower, when repayment resumes, I’ll be on the SAVE plan, counting down the months and years until my debt is forgiven.