Over 20,000 borrowers have already sent legal appeals to the Department of Education with support from a debtors union.

by Kristin Collier, Truthout

In 1972 the U.S. government reauthorized the Higher Education Act with new amendments that not only increased access to college for women and people of color but also left these same students at the “mercy of bankers.” As a result, they were forced to debt-finance their education, as scholar Elizabeth Tandy Shermer wrote in Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt.

“We as a family have paid all our taxes and conformed to all the bureaucracies that now prevail and yet we find because of the present system that we can’t send our son to college,” a parent from Washington state wrote to the Treasury Department around the time of the reauthorization. As the fear, anger and despondency in letters from families swelled, department officials and Nixon aides began to call them “grief mail.”

Demonstrators protest near Grand Army Plaza during a rally to cancel student loan debts.

These letters, penned by heartbroken parents 50 years ago, could have been written today. In October 2023, loan payments will be due for the first time in over three years. At that time, money that debtors like me have used to pay for medicine, get married, buy homes, pay down other debts and care for their communities will be funneled back to the government. Interest payments restarted on September 1, and since then, our loan totals have grown alongside our grief.

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